By Tiffany Merlo Phelps

Ponte Vedra Beach resident Paul Bednar is known in the area as “the Realtor with the dog.” It is a title that he does not carry lightly. As a volunteer Puppy Raiser with K9s For Warriors for the past four years, Bednar takes his service puppies in training with him everywhere and for good reason — socialization is key to a service dog. “Everything we do is for the puppy. We rearrange our schedules around the puppies,” said Bednar, who works for ERA Real Estate Davis & Linn. Bednar, who is from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, has worked in finance and accounting management for 17 years. The Bednars also have a house dog, 12- year-old Bella. 

While it costs $25,000 to train a service dog for K9s For Warriors, everything is free for the wounded warriors (military veterans suffering from PTSD, traumatic brain injury, and/or military sexual trauma) who will ultimately be the dog’s owner. A lot of puppies come from breeder donations, owner surrenders and shelters. “The reward is knowing the puppy is going to be with the warrior for the rest of his life. It has been shown that warriors experience a great reduction in anxiety as a result of having a service dog,” said Bednar. “Our mission is to end veteran suicide. We want to continue to raise awareness for people to get involved.” 

Havana Printing 904-447-5021

Q: How did you become interested in puppy raising? 
A: It all comes back to real estate. I really enjoy working with active-duty military, veterans and first time home buyers. I really like that demographic. When you see their faces on the day of signing, it makes it all worth it. One of my mortgage lenders invited my wife Alicia and me to a K9s For Warriors 

event, and that is when we decided to apply to become puppy raisers. We completed training classes and passed the home inspection. K9s For Warriors provides everything — food, medical care and support. 

Q: Describe your role as volunteer Puppy Raisers for K-9s For Warriors. 
A: As volunteer Puppy Raisers, we open our hearts and home to become the primary caregiver for the puppy until he/she is about 16 to 18 months old. Our responsibilities are to train the puppy (about 18 basic cues), socialize and expose the puppy to various public places and situations, provide a structured environment and ensure all medical needs are met. We are also Goodwill Ambassadors for the K9s For Warriors organization to promote and raise awareness when in public or at fundraising events. 

Q: Talk about your first service dog. 
Q: Our first puppy, Beau, came to us in 2018. It really is like raising a baby with potty training and vaccinations. If a dog is misbehaving when you are out, you leave just like you would with a baby. We focus on the mission of bringing the puppy to a certain point. From day one, we were 110 percent vested in Beau (a Vizsla). We loved Beau, and we did everything in his best interest. 

Q: Name the other puppies you have trained. 
A: Our second puppy, Peanut (a white English Lab), came to us in 2019. Because of Covid, we ended up keeping Peanut longer because socialization was limited. We kept him until April 2021. In 2020, we also received a Standard Poodle named Hunter. After he did not pass the hip evaluation to become a service dog, K9s For Warriors found a home for him as a “station dog” with the Daytona Beach Shores Police Department. He lives the life down there. On the same day that we dropped off Hunter, we picked up Winston, a black English Lab. Winston left our home at 14 months and has now been placed with his warrior. Currently, we have Max, a black Standard Poodle. He just turned one, and we will have him until June. 

Q: How are you able to let the puppy go after all that bonding time? 
A: Many people we talk to always ask us “how” we can let the puppy go; however, the question should be “why.” Dr. Suess is quoted “Sometimes you will never know the value of a moment, until it becomes a memory.” Sharing those moments with our puppies as we prepare them to become a battle buddy for life and serve a higher purpose in the fight to end veteran suicide becomes a lifetime of memories for us and is the “why” we continue to puppy raise and support this organization. 

[Author’s Note: Bednar said there is a wait list for warriors to get a service dog and volunteers are needed. Anyone interested in learning more should contact Cindy Cope at K9s For Warriors at]

Photo courtesy Paul Bednar 

  • Let them know you are open for business! Advertise in our May Issue!
  • Let them know you are open for business! Advertise in our May Issue! Ponta Vedra NewsLine
  • Support Community Journalism in Ponta Vedra NewsLine
  • Havana Printing 904-447-5021