K9s For Warriors: Helping Veterans Heal

Wrapping up our campaign to support National PTSD Awareness this month, a look into healing with service doges. This guest post was contributed by Tanya Dvorak of K9s For Warriors….

 Helping Veterans HealNestled along a two lane road in St. Johns County, Florida, is a small outpost dedicated to helping warriors heal.  Most of them are men.  They’re broken and not easily repairable.  PTSD is what afflicts all of them.  But thanks to a small army of staff and volunteers these warriors are well on their way to becoming whole again.  That’s the human side of what’s happening at the place lovingly referred to as “The Doghouse.”  Man’s best friend is the other important piece to what has grown into a complicated puzzle.

Dogs, rescued from an unknown fate, are being paired with veterans from all over America at the headquarters for K9s For Warriors.  K9s For Warriors is dedicated to providing service canines to warriors suffering from Post-traumatic Stress Disability (PTSD)and/or traumatic brain injury (TBI) as a result of military service post September 11th military service.  The organization is also working with those dealing with military sexual trauma (MST).  The goal is to give a new leash on life to rescue dogs and military heroes, empowering warriors to return to civilian life with dignity and independence.

Does the program work?  Here’s a portion of an email sent to K9s For Warriors from a recent graduate:

“I cannot put into words how I feel about Berkeley (service dog) and the entire path that brought he and I together.  You made that possible!  His life has been spared and in return he is essentially saving my life by restoring and giving me the support and confidence that I need to weather the storms of life.  The time spent at K9s got me out of my house more than I have in the past two years.  I actually went to the park downtown and walked with Berkeley to look over me.  The bond he and I have developed so far is unbelievable.  It will only grow stronger as he strengthens me by helping me regain my confidence and courage to overcome any obstacle that comes my way.” – Rick, K9s For Warriors Graduate

Shari Duval founded K9s For Warriors in 2011.  “My son, a veteran K9 police officer, worked as a contractor for the Department of the Army as a bomb dog handler. He served two tours in Iraq and returned home with PTSD. This really hit home to our family. After two years of research on canine assistance for PTSD we decided the best way we could help these deserving warriors was to start a non-profit organization to assist them,” said Duval.

The successes at K9s For Warriors speaks for themselves.  Too often prescription drugs are the only answer given to a veteran.  Moreover, there are more than 3 million dogs that are euthanized in rescue shelters every year, many are wonderful dogs that can be trained to be service dogs for deserving veterans.

STOP22 is K9s For Warriors latest campaign to raise awareness about the reported 22 Veterans who commit suicide everyday.  Everyone is being asked to share their message of #K9sSTOP22.  People should be creative and share this message in a Facebook post, a Tweet, or an Instagram post using the number 22.  Folks can share their photos on K9s For Warriors website www.STOP22.org and bring awareness to this epidemic.

Since its founding, K9s For Warriors has graduated 154 teams.  This is just the tip of the iceberg.  A new state-of-the-art headquarters and training facility to help more warriors is scheduled to open in spring 2015.  “These dogs work miracles,” said Duval.

She added, “Our program has been successful, with documented recovery from the debilitating horrors of war, but the need is critical and overwhelming. We currently have a year-long waiting list, we must do more.  We will continue our goal of serving our Nation’s Greatest Asset, our Military Men and Women.”

 
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