Service Dogs for Veterans — Dealing With The Numbers

by Mary Haight on November 21, 2013

service dogs for veteransService Dogs for Veterans is a topic close to many hearts, and when the VA shut down the program to provide dogs to Veterans with PTSD , that burden shifted to veterans and their families. At around $25,000 per dog, the expense can be out of reach. Not-for-profits and concerned citizens are working to take that burden, as much of it as possible, off their shoulders but the need is daunting. An Atlantic article from 2012 noted that of those soldiers deployed since 2001 to Afghanistan or Iran 520,000 returning veterans have or may develop PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder). Dealing with those numbers is going to take massive participation and partnerships by private, public and, yes, government institutions.

Training Dogs To Meet Service Dog Requirements Takes Time

It takes 18 months to 2.5 years to train a Service Dog, yet even with prison dog training programs, there are only so many certified Service Dogs any organization working on this problem can produce each year. That’s where corporate programs can be helpful, especially those with a lively community either on their blog or their social media channels. I recently had the privilege of having a hand in creating such a program with CEO David Wilder for his start-up company Dog Ring LLC. (Best project this year!)

Dog Ring LLC has chosen to support Patriot PAWS in Texas, a 501c3 organization that has been working effectively in this area since it was founded in 2006. They train and place dogs at no charge with individuals across the nation to help with disabilities ranging from back injuries and amputations, to Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), Traumatic Brain Injuries, seizures and more. Patriot PAWS established with the Texas Department of Criminal Justice, a volunteer prisoner dog training program. The dogs learn behaviors including how to get help in emergencies or avert PTSD episodes, how to pick up and retrieve items or do chores such as laundry, help brace a veteran when standing up and open doors when needed. They have a wait-list of 100.

We’ve all heard the reports how these dogs make an incredible difference in the lives of veterans with PTSD and in the lives of their families. To quote from the above cited Atlantic article:

Patients often experience dramatic improvement, say service dog experts. They feel renewed confidence in social situations, decrease medication use, and are less likely to startle. Some veterans say it’s the only treatment that ever worked so well.

Having independence of action and a sense of autonomy is something we all deeply value. Asking everyone for help with every little thing you need can lead to a lack of self-esteem and depression. Imagine how that would feel. Now imagine there is no one to ask.

Service Dogs for Veterans, Corporate Philanthropy

David Wilder’s personal mission is to help dogs have a better life with their humans and invented The Dog Ring to help make that happen. Service dogs for veterans is a great fit for the company’s charitable program — David is himself a veteran.

Contributing and raising funds for the cost of Service Dogs while offering tools to the dog loving public to make life with dogs more than a part-time event is a “virtuous cycle” more and more businesses ascribe to. I hope more businesses see the need and get behind the effort to step up the pace of training Service Dogs for veterans, especially those with PTSD who have been refused this assistance.

On a personal note to the veteran who sent me an email thanking me for writing about the VA discontinuing the program for PTSD Vets, take heart. While you may feel you have been deserted, there are tens of thousands of people out there who care about you and others like you, and many who are actively working to get you the help you need.

While The Dog Ring won’t be available until next year, a check has already been presented – fundraising for Service Dogs for Veterans has begun! Check the banner in the right margin…the link goes straight to Patriot PAWS website to the “donate in honor or memory” of someone. If you think this is a good idea, you might  want to share it on your social networks.

If you have a website and would like to help promote the program, email me (see the About section) or tweet me!

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