Veterans Day is an important holiday. As a kid, I was happy to get the day off of school, but I didn’t really think about the remarkable sacrifice veterans have made. Some veterans come home and pick up their lives without missing a beat. But for many, that just isn’t possible. It is estimated that 20% of veterans suffer from Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome (PTSD). Service dogs can help veterans live with physical disabilities and/or PSTD.
In honor of Veterans Day, I’ve rounded up some organizations that help connect veterans and service dogs. All of the dogs trained by these organizations are former rescues.
Every dog in the Patriot Rovers program is a rescue dog who undergoes extensive socializing and training to become a Psychiatric Service dog. Once a dog is fully trained, the dog and veteran participate in a 40 hour training course. Additionally they are given a starter package of one hundred pounds of dog food as well as basic dog care items, all at no cost to the veteran.
There are other organizations who also connect veterans with former rescue dogs that are trained as service dogs.
Dogs For Veterans: Our mission is to train and place service dogs that will enhance the lives of American veterans who have become disabled as a result of serving in the United States Armed Forces, giving them a little something back for their tremendous sacrifices.
4 Paws 4 Patriots is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization established to provide free service dogs to disabled veterans across the United States. We utilize various resources including staff trainers, contract trainers and local animal shelters to provide service dogs, training, and equipment to Disabled American Veterans across the country.
Sam Simon Foundation: The Sam Simon Foundation launched its Service Dog program in response to the growing need of veterans coping with PTSD as a result of the Iraq/Afghanistan conflict. A Service Dog is not a cure for PTSD, but whose skills and companionship can be an aid for managing the symptoms and promoting well-being .
Our dogs are specially selected from local shelters based on their temperament and breed. Most of our Service Dogs will be retrievers or retriever types. They are generally between 1-2 years old at the time of their placement. Some may be more energetic than others and so the exercise requirement will vary from dog to dog. Their training time with us is approximately 5-6 months. About 1 out of every 4 dogs will make it through the training to graduation. Dogs that do not complete training are placed for adoption locally and are coined “Career Change Dogs”.
Because we also provide Hearing Dogs to people deaf and hard of hearing, we are only able to place a very small number of Service Dogs. Therefore, we can only select those applicants that demonstrate the most need as well as have a lifestyle and support system suitable for a dog. However, any applicant that we must decline, we will refer to other agencies.
Freedom Service Dogs is a nonprofit organization that enhances the lives of people with disabilities by rescuing dogs and custom training them for individual client needs. Clients include children, veterans and active duty soldiers, and other adults. Their disabilities include Autism, Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI), Cerebral Palsy, spinal cord injuries, Muscular Dystrophy, Multiple Sclerosis, and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).
Our dogs come from shelters and rescue groups. They learn to pick up items, open doors, pull wheelchairs, go for help, turn on lights and 50 other commands. They also assist in programs for humane education, disabilities awareness, character development for at-risk youth, and rehabilitation therapy.
I would be remiss if I didn’t mention two more organizations. Pets For Patriots and Pets For Vets differ from the above organizations in that they do not provide service dogs. Instead they help military (former and current) personnel adopt companion pets.
Pets For Patriots: We exist to transform the lives of our veterans by helping them save an at-risk shelter dog or cat. With your support, we can end animal homelessness in the U.S. and enrich the lives of the men and women who serve, and have served our country.
Pets For Vets: Our goal is to help heal the emotional wounds of military veterans by pairing them with a shelter animal that is specially selected to match his or her personality. Professional animal trainers rehabilitate the animals and teach them good manners to fit into the veteran’s lifestyle. Training can also include desensitization to wheel chairs or crutches as well as recognizing panic or anxiety disorder behaviors.
Needy shelter animals receive a second chance at life while giving our returning soldiers a second chance at health and happiness. The bonds of friendship formed between man and animal have the power to ease the suffering of our troops when they return from overseas.
Do you know another organization that should be added to this list?
About Simon Photographic: Currently based in Greensboro, North Carolina, Frank Simon is an experienced photographer who has been published in Vogue, Modern Bride, Bride Magazine and dozens of other magazines around the world. Frank is available for commercial photography, headshots and a limited number of weddings. He loves to travel.