Skip to comments.Soldier’s Best Friend: Touching two lives at a time
Posted on 09/19/2016 7:06:54 AM PDT by SandRat
Southern Arizona veterans suffering from combat-related injuries have a new resource. Soldiers Best Friend provides service dogs for U.S. military combat veterans living with Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) or combat related Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).
The Peoria, Ariz.-based non-profit began in 2011 after a veterinarian noticed some of his clients dogs were instrumental in helping them cope with their own issues such as depression or uneasiness in public. The program partners with local rescue shelters to obtain the dogs and it is from assisting the veteran and saving the dog that the organization gets its motto Touching 2 lives at once.
Director of Training for Southern Arizona Leslie Bryant says their service animals can be trained to do just about anything.
They can be trained to sweep a room, wake their owner from nightmares or even turn on lights, she says. Dog-veteran teams undergo a comprehensive, six-month training program that includes completion of the AKC Canine Good Citizen test, twice-weekly private and group trainings and homework.
Service animals also help veterans prone to reclusiveness.
The animal makes the veteran interact with the public. People will naturally ask about the dog, Leslie Bryant. Otherwise, they can just go to the store, get their stuff and get out.
Bryant knows first hand the advantages of having a service animal. She and her Karelian bear dog have been a team for three years. Bryant is a Navy veteran who suffers from mobility issues as a result of injuries sustained while working in law enforcement.
Based upon the veterans specific need, it can take up to four weeks to find the perfect dog match. However, if the owners dog can pass the evaluation, it can also be trained as a service dog.
Soldiers Best Friend Director of Training for Southern Arizona Leslie Bryant oversees a recent training session in Tompkins Park. MARK.LEVY@SVHERALD.COM
Garry Gilberts own dog Dakota was trained to be his service animal. Although the Vietnam veterans combat experience was years ago, the need for a service animal was just as great.
When I returned from Vietnam in the 1960s, nobody really knew what PTSD was, Gilbert explains. Gilbert was eventually awarded full disability by Veterans Affairs and, in addition to receiving counseling, he qualified for a service dog. Dakota was evaluated and eventually trained.
Veteran John Grabowicz and Zeus train recently with Soldiers Best Friend trainers in Sierra Vista. MARK.LEVY@SVHERALD.COM
Today, Dakota is near retirement, so Gilberts new dog, Cheyenne, is currently in training to serve the same purpose.
They sense when Im getting emotional, says Gilbert of his two dogs. Theyll knock into me until I get down on their level, love on them and tell them Im OK.
Jena Montiverdi, a Soldiers Best Friend trainer, works with soldiers suffering with PTSD and their dogs in Tompkins Park. MARK.LEVY@SVHERALD.COM
In addition to providing emotional comfort, his dogs create a safe zone around him when hes in public.
If a person gets too close, Dakota will push the other person back, he says.
To date, Soldiers Best Friend has accepted nearly 200 veterans with 35 teams currently in training.
For the future, Soldiers Best Friend continues enhancing the lives of Southern Arizonas veterans with service animal trainings now held in Prescott, Flagstaff and Tucson. The program is also branching out, having recently accepted a veteran in Safford.
For more information on how to apply for a service animal, volunteer or donate to Soldiers Best Friend, visit www.soldiersbestfriend.org.
now this is sweet.
Paywall. Can’t see.
I think Charlie is your best friend who makes you happy. :)
Oh they are part of that statement for sure! LOL!
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