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  • Napa Valley Marketplace Magazine

WARRIOR DOGS: Honoring the Service & Sacrifice of America’s Four-Legged Fighters

By Kathleen Reynolds

Napa Valley Museum Yountville celebrates the opening of another world-premiere exhibition, WARRIOR DOGS: Honoring the Service & Sacrifice of America’s Four-Legged Fighters, presented in partnership with the Tug McGraw Foundation. The exhibition will be on display in the Main Gallery through August 25, 2024. 

This emotional, inspiring exhibition takes a deep dive into the heroic partnership between military dogs, their trainers and handlers and veterinarians, and other soldiers with whom they serve. The exhibition includes 17 life-size wooden sculptures by acclaimed artist James Mellick from his “Wounded Warrior Dog” project. On display are Cairo, who deployed to Afghanistan with the U.S. Navy SEAL Team, and the debut of Mellick’s sculpture of Torque, the Huey Helicopter dog who represents the 4,000 canines who did not return from Vietnam after the war. A kid-friendly “petting dog” sculpture by James Mellick is also included.

Visitors of all ages will learn about the history of dogs in combat, about puppies “born to be brave,” their selection, training and specialized combat gear, and the handlers and trainers who make them battle-ready. Discover, through rare photos and stories, the extraordinary bonds warrior dogs share with the armed forces they serve and protect. A portion of the exhibition is dedicated to working dogs serving with Veterans suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress, First Responders, Law Enforcement Firefighters, and other civilian forces. 

“Warrior Dogs shines a light on the training, bravery and the bond they share with the U.S. Armed Forces they serve alongside. To be able to tell their stories, with the support of the Napa Valley Museum, is a true honor. Through Warrior Dogs we are giving back. It is a thank you to all the Military Working Dogs and their handlers for their dedication and service,” says Jennifer Brusstar, Co-Founder and President of The Tug McGraw Foundation.

Laura Rafaty, Executive Director of Napa Valley Museum Yountville, explains, “The Museum is excited to present another original exhibition, particularly one that honors and we hope resonates with our Veterans Home neighbors here in Yountville. The Museum team are all dedicated dog lovers, so the chance to tell this story, and to honor the role of dogs in service of our country, has been incredibly moving for all of us working on its creation. It is a very emotional exhibition, with some very serious content, but also including kid-friendly elements like a petting dog sculpture for kids. We are so grateful to our partners at the Tug McGraw Foundation and to America’s Forgotten Heroes for gathering an amazing array of gear used by military working dogs in training and combat. And we are thrilled to bring James Mellick’s moving ‘wounded warrior dog’ sculptures to California for the first time. We believe this exhibition is going to be one of the most inspiring and emotionally satisfying ones we’ve ever presented.” 

The downstairs galleries remain open on the museum’s regular hours with two exhibitions: 

Pollyanna ValleyLearn the story of the beloved Disney film starring Hayley Mills, shot in locations throughout the Napa and Sonoma Valleys. 

Napa Valley Museum Mini-MasterpiecesOriginal works by local and regional artists for sale to benefit the museum’s nonprofit arts and education programs. 


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