IPSWICH — Don't let the name Rabbit fool you.
Named after the iconic Winnie the Pooh character, Rabbit the Great Dane towers at 31 inches and weighs roughly 140 pounds.
Three weeks ago, this colossal canine found a new home to assist Micaila Britto, a U.S. Marine Corps veteran who suffered severe injuries in the line of duty.
"Providing this service dog to a veteran in need exemplifies our motto of service above self," said Joan Arsenault, who is the governor for Rotary District 7930 and a member of Ipswich Rotary.
The district raised $20,000 from its local clubs to gift Britto with Rabbit via the Service Dog Project Inc. (SDP). The Ipswich-based organization breeds Great Danes and trains them to be certified service dogs for individuals with balance issues or war injuries.
"There is no greater honor for a Rotarian to do good in the world and change someone's life," Arsenault said. "To help our veterans who have given their service to our country."
After serving seven years in the Marine Corps, Britto, who lives in Taunton, retired due to injuries sustained during a recovery mission.
According to the official Rotary website, Britto's military occupational specialty was aircraft launch and recovery with an expertise in recovery efforts for emergency landings.
Injuries to the head, neck, and spine have left Britto with balance and mobility issues. So a service dog can provide someone in her condition with a new independence.
"Rabbit will assist with mobility issues, balance walking, and if she falls down she will brace with Rabbit to get up," explained Arsenault.
Before Rabbit, Britto used to order her food online. Now, with a canine by her side, the veteran can go grocery shopping.
"They can go anywhere," said SDP founder Carlene White, explaining the benefits of a service dog. "They get their independence back."
Despite the severity of her injuries, Britto is an active member of her community.
She serves as the veterans services director for the town of Raynham and hosts her hometown's radio show, "Ask the Veteran's Agent." She's also a freelance photographer who contributes her work to various veterans organizations and has begun to volunteer at SDP.
White said that since it donated its first dog in 2004, SDP has sent 174 dogs out to work with those in need. She estimated that there are about 62 dogs on the Ipswich property.
The money raised by the Rotary Foundation and individual contributions went toward a grant that paid for the raising and training of the Great Dane.
Rotary District 7930, which is comprised of more than 1,700 members, provided $10,000 in Rotary Foundation funds and asked the 47 clubs in the district -- which covers Boston up through the North Shore -- and individuals to consider participating to raise the other half.
"We really do appreciate the Rotarians involvement," White said. "We need all the Rotarians we can get."
Britto will be recognized with her new canine companion at the Rotary's District Foundation Dinner on Thursday, Nov. 7, at the Andover Country Club.
"Micaila is a well-respected veteran," said Rotary District Assistant Governor Lori Karas of Boston. "This is an opportunity for us to recognize that she is a veteran and she has a lot to be proud of."
In addition to highlighting Britto's years of service, the Rotary dinner will highlight 16 unsung heroes who have embodied "service above self" with recognition as Paul Harris fellows, and there will also be an award to the Wonderfund – a stateside nonprofit serving Massachusetts children – of a $5,000 grant.
Lauren Baker, the first lady of Massachusetts and vice chair of Wonderfund's board, will be the guest speaker for the night.
Staff writer Taylor Ann Bradford can be reached at 978-338-2527 or email@example.com.