Patriot PAWS Service Dogs: 2022 Mutual of America Community Partnership Award Winner
It’s that time of year again! The Mutual of America Community Partnership award winner has been named and our Flavorlab Score and Sound teams have partnered with Jeff Schwartz of Primalux Video to honor the winner with a short doc. The award recipient this year is not only a stellar example of community partnership, but also of interspecies partnership. Patriot Paws Service Dogs of Rockwall, Texas. Founded in 2005 by long time dog trainer, Lori Stevens, Patriot Paws trains and provides Service Dogs for disabled American Veterans who suffer from Mobile Disabilities, Traumatic Brain Injuries, and/or Post-Traumatic Stress.
With a team of trainers at their facility in Rockwall, the organization also works with volunteers across Texas. Many volunteer as puppy raisers, getting the dogs ready for training, including students at Texas A&M. They also employ incarcerated individuals as puppy trainers through the Texas Department of Criminal Justice. This partnership not only helps Patriot PAWS train more service dogs for disabled veterans, but creates career opportunities for inmates after their release and involves them in the community duration their incarceration.
“After 20 years, this partnership extends far beyond the walls of the studio. Jeff brings the theme to production and brings the stories and the people back to us, beyond what makes the final cut. That allows us to be musical translators for the emotion on the ground.”
Erik Blicker, composer
After Jeff’s pre-interview trip to Texas, he wrote the theme. With the doc set outside Dallas, a country tune seemed only right. The theme is a simple, traditional melody, as timeless as the the relationship between man and man’s best friend. As most of the veterans in the program are men, Jeff tapped Paulie Coconuts for the male lead vocal. To represent the women vets and most of the staff in Rockwall, Erik and Glenn hired Lexi Casano for the harmony. For the finale, Judd Neilson added joyful sparkle on keys.
Paulie Coconuts & Lexi Casano sing with Erik & Glenn
Paulie’s voice became familiar to the trainers at Rockwall as Jeff played the scratch theme during production. In turn, the remainder of the sound and score is informed by the people. “Jeff’s pacing and cadence was really inspired by Lori’s voice,” explains Erik. “He used her voice to pace the cut because this is her project.” The cut informed the dialogue edit and mix, done by re-recording mixer, Eric Stern. In addition to a slew of classic country musical references and modern folk production techniques, the pacing gave the score a steady, grounding sound. With the exception of one track.
The crew joined the veterans for their two week onboarding at Rockwall. During the first week, veterans watch the dogs train. Part of training for the puppies involves ignoring obstacles. One particular obstacle was a motorized pink unicorn that played Rossini’s William Tell Overture. Coming back to the studio, with many repetitions of the upbeat overture in his ears, Jeff asked the team to countrify the classic piece. Doubling the melody in octaves on guitar gave it a lighter, more fun feel with the dobro adding twangy shimmer to the montage.
“I cut a few scenes to an existing country love song,” explains Jeff. “I asked the guys to write a new score using that tempo and pacing, focusing on the love between the dog and the vet. You’d think the veteran chooses the dog, but the dog really does choose their person.”