Did you know that September’s National Service Dog Month was first established in 2008 by actor and animal advocate Dick Van Patten? Well, we didn’t! It happened after his visit to the Guide Dogs of the Desert Facility in Palm Springs, CA, where he learned of the costs and times involved in training a service dog, leading to an annual fundraiser every year to support the cause
Service dogs do much more than serve as guide dogs to the blind today. As recently as 2005, service dog roles continued to change, especially as a result of our country’s involvement in military conflicts. Which leads us to ask, what exactly can service dogs do for our veterans?
What Can Service Dogs Do for Veterans?
Throughout history service dogs served mostly as guide dogs for the blind, helping police officers enforce the law, they even trained as hearing dogs and are well-known as therapy dogs.
But, since 2005, when disabled Iraqi war veteran Tony Larsen received a dog to assist him with balance, retrieval and emotional support, the role of service dogs changed drastically. Their role turned to life saver for many war veterans.
That’s because 20% of the 1.7 million men and women who served in Iraq and Afghanistan have been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). But those are only the ones that sought treatment so there are many veterans out there that have not been diagnosed. Which means the number suffering from this devastating disability is likely much higher than. Even after diagnosis, they’re unable to find any help for their suffering.
According to Wikipedia, “In 2012, an estimated 6,500 former military personnel died by suicide. More veterans succumbed to suicide than were killed in Iraq: 177 active-duty soldiers died by suicide compared to 176 soldiers killed in combat . . . In 2013, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs released a study that covered suicides from 1999 to 2010, which showed that roughly 22 veterans were dying by suicide per day, or one every 65 minutes.”
As more veterans suffering from PTSD partnered with service dogs, results showed that veterans returned to a successful and productive civilian life. One of the most successful organizations tasked with pairing veterans suffering from PTSD or traumatic brain injury (TBI) with a service dog is K9s for Warriors.
K9s for Warriors is a non-profit organization that provides service dogs to veterans diagnosed with PTSD or TBI as a result of military service post 9/11. Their goal is to give a new leash on life to rescue dogs and military heroes, empowering them to return to a successful and productive civilian life. They accomplish this by carefully selecting dogs for their program from animal shelters, professionally train them, then match them with veterans. For the next three weeks they live, learn and bond together. The majority of service dog graduates are rescued from shelters. Results from pairing veterans with service dogs include:
- Expertly trained service dogs help veterans recover from PTSD or TBI
- Veterans returning to civilian life and independence
- 66% of graduates report a reduction in medications
- To date 651 dogs rescued and 357 veterans rescued
- 100% success rate for preventing suicide in the graduates of the program
The success rate doesn’t come cheap, money raised helps pay for the intense training shelter dogs undergo before being paired with a warrior. It also helps cover the training the veterans receive after they meet their service dog. Without the support of corporate sponsors and donors, the success of K9s for Warriors wouldn’t be possible. Corporate sponsors such as Bayer contributed $700,000 since 2014, have sponsored the training and adoption of 20 shelter-to-service dogs and provide their K9 Advantix® Ⅱ flea & tick preventative free of charge as the official sponsor.
Name the Next K9s For Warriors Service Dog
This young lady is in training as a service dog for a veteran, but before she meets him or her, she needs a name! Her favorite activity is bath time where she gets pampered for all the hard work and learning she is doing. Visit petbasics.com to place your vote, then follow @BayerforPets on Twitter to receive updates on her name and which warrior she’ll be paired with!
No pressure but we are rooting for Zoey as Dolly’s pal Zoe went OTRB earlier this year. We know she will be just as amazing as our Zoe was. Voting ends September 15th so hurry!
The PAWS Act
You can help K9s for Warriors save even more veterans and shelter dogs by letting your legislative representatives know that you support the PAWS Act. K9s for Warriors doesn’t have the resources to accommodate the tens of thousands of veterans who could benefit from having their own service dog. If passed, the bill gives eligible veterans suffering from PTSD and suicide ideating the option of a service dog, from any certified service dog organization of their choosing, as part of their VA health care treatment.
If you don’t know who to contact go to http://www.house.gov/representatives/find/, type in your zip code, click on the representative’s name and you’ll get their contact information.
K9s for Warriors is a win-win situation, you’re saving a veteran and saving a shelter dog’s life.