Roughly one out of every five veterans who has served in a combat zone will be diagnosed with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) at some point in their lifetime. Just over 17% of post-9/11 service members have Traumatic Brain Injuries (TBI). Nearly 20 veterans commit suicide every day. These are just a few of the staggering numbers associated with the struggles our Veterans face every day.
Fortunately, we have “man’s best friend.” Many veterans find service dogs to be a huge help in managing their PTSD symptoms. Service dogs can be used in the traditional sense, but also can be trained to help with mobility issues, as well as anxiety and psychological disabilities. Groups like Hearts of Gold, which is based in West Virginia, and Alpha Bravo Canine train service dogs specifically to help veterans with these issues – at low or no cost to the veteran.
Unfortunately, the process to receive a service dog can be lengthy. Once a veteran qualifies for a service dog, they are then matched with a puppy and that puppy is trained to meet the specific needs of their prospective owner. Training for service dogs generally lasts for two years. Then, the dogs can be permanently placed with their owner. It is an incredibly involved process and will require the veteran to participate in many training activities.
Furthermore, organizations that provide service dogs for veterans usually work within a very specific geographical area due to the hands-on nature of the training. It is important for the veteran to be available to help with training and bond with their new service dog. We encourage veterans to seek organizations closest to them in order to ensure the best match and results to meet their needs.
Despite the long, and sometimes difficult, process, service dogs have proven to be more than worth the wait. They can help with mobility and balance, as well as mental health conditions. Service dogs can be trained to prevent anyone from approaching their owner too quickly or face the opposite direction from their owner to assure someone is watching their back. If this is something from which you feel you would benefit, we encourage you to seek out an organization close to you and begin the application process. A service dog may just be the companion you need to help overcome your struggles.
- Hearts of Gold – Morgantown, WV
- Alpha Bravo Canine – Philadelphia, PA
- Dogs4Warriors – Bowerston, OH
- Semper K9 – Quantico, VA