By Ralph Iannotti


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PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — A local Vietnam veteran who trains therapy dogs wants to clear his name after several people accused him of wrongdoing.

The dog at the center of the controversy is an Airdale named Almira. Joseph Orsino Jr. trained the dog; he says he had every intention of giving it to 21-year-old Jenevieve Woods, who was looking for a service dog. Woods’ nickname is Peach.

When Woods reached out to a friend in search for just the right therapy dog and after Orsino received an anonymous $5,000 donation from someone to help search for a dog for Peach and also to pay for the dog’s training, Orsino contacted a woman named Shirley Bills, someone he had once trained a dog for a while back.

The agreement Bills signed with Orsino to get Peach’s service dog makes no mention of any money transactions between him and Bills, but rather in return for training Almira, Orsino agreed to train another of Bills’ dogs.

(Photo Credit: KDKA)

“When I went to look at the dog, I knew right away it had a good nature, good temperament and a loving nature. That’s why I said, this is the dog for Peach,” Orsino said.

But something went wrong.

After Almira was trained by Orsino and spent a weekend with the Woods family, they said Almira didn’t fit the Peach’s needs.

And not only did Shirley want her dog back but, according to Orsino, after she signed that non-monetary agreement, he was still owed another $5,000 for Almira’s training, in addition to that $5,000 donation.

Now, he says he doesn’t want the second payment. He wants to clear his name.

“What went wrong, it certainly wasn’t the training. What went wrong is I just… I’m not sure. I want her to give that $5,000 to Peaches, so all Peaches had to do is call me, come, and I’ll take two hours to show her how to work with this dog. The donor, I’m sure, would give her the $5,000, and she could be on her own,” Orsino said.

Ralph Iannotti