Service Dogs Help Veterans Cope With Trauma And Live Again: Meet K9s For Warriors!

PONTE VEDRA, FL - MARCH 15: Adam Fuller and his dog JD demonstrate the "cover" command for the class. The command brings the dog to the owner's side and looking behind them to protect the person when they have their back turned to a group of strangers. Fuller helps teach as part of the K9s for Warriors program, a graduate of the program in January, he is training to be a full time instructor with the organization.

(Picture Credit: Kile Brewer for The Washington Post via Getty Images)

In honor of Veterans Day we’d like to shed light on a very special organization called K9s For Warriors.

After serving our country in active military duty, many young men and women have a difficult time returning to civilian life. Veterans can suffer from conditions like post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), traumatic brain injury (TBI), and military sexual trauma (MST).

Trying to fit into a world that you feel so disconnected from is just unfathomable, but with a little help from a furry friend, hurdles that seem like mountains can be a little easier to climb. We’re learning more and more just how beneficial companion animals are for people suffering from trauma.

That’s where K9s For Warriors comes in. They provide service dogs to veterans struggling with issues that arise from their time in the service as they return to society.

The double win here is that the majority of the organization’s canines are actual rescues. We live in a world that will never catch up with the number of unwanted animals that fill shelters and pounds, so fitting them into homes of vets also helps place rescue pups.

I had some questions for K9s For Warriors and got the opportunity to speak with a representative.

Get To Know K9s For Warriors

JULIA: How long has this organization been around? Who started it, and how?

K9S FOR WARRIORS: K9s For Warriors was founded in 2011. Shari Duval started the organization.

Her son, a veteran canine police officer returned home from Iraq with PTSD. After research on canine assistance for PTSD, Shari decided to start an organization to train and give service dogs to assist all post-9/11 military veterans suffering from PTSD, TBI, and/or Military Sexual Trauma.

JULIA: Are all of your service dogs rescues?

K9S FOR WARRIORS: 90 percent of our service dogs are rescues.

JULIA: What are you looking for in the dogs you train?

K9S FOR WARRIORS: We have height, weight, and temperament requirements. There is no specific breed requirement.

How Does A K9 Canine Train To Help Veterans?

 

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JULIA: Who trains these dogs, and is it possible for people to volunteer for this?

K9S FOR WARRIORS: We have amazing dog trainers who teach our rescues obedience and cues to help veterans manage their trauma. We also have warrior trainers who train each veteran once he or she is matched with a service dog.

Together, they help each veteran reintegrate into society through activities such as retail shopping, dining out, and being in other crowded public places.

Although volunteers cannot train the dogs, there are many ways to volunteer or fundraise to support our veterans and their service dogs. Find out how on the K9s For Warriors website!

JULIA: How long does it take to train one of these dogs?

K9S FOR WARRIORS: Three to six months. Puppies who enter the program remain with volunteer raisers or fosters until twelve to 16 months old.

JULIA: How does that differ from the training of a guide dog, for example?

K9S FOR WARRIORS: These dogs learn cues that are specific to helping veterans with PTSD, MST, or TBI.

For example, “stand” is the cue that a veteran uses to place the dog in between him or herself and another person. This creates a comfortable distance when the veteran is feeling unsure or anxious.

How Can Veterans Participate And Benefit?

 

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JULIA: If someone knows of a veteran who could benefit from this service, how would they go about contacting you?

K9S FOR WARRIORS: You can contact us at K9sForWarriors.org, or give us a call at 904-686-1956.

JULIA: Are there any costs associated with this for participating veterans?

K9S FOR WARRIORS: No, our veterans enter our program completely free of charge.

JULIA: Do you have any examples of veterans who have benefited from this program?

K9S FOR WARRIORS: Yes, we have over 580 graduates of the program who reside all across the U.S. You can see several testimonials from our graduates here.

JULIA: What are your hopes for the future of this program?

K9S FOR WARRIORS: We want to save more lives–both dogs and veterans.

We have a mega-kennel in the works, which will allow us to rescue and train more dogs and, hopefully, help more veterans suffering from military-related trauma gain a new leash on life.

You Can Help K9s For Warriors In Their Mission

 

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If you are able to donate to this beautiful cause, it will help to continue placing companion dogs into the arms and homes of veterans in need of a little extra help getting back to life.

I believe many of us will never know what challenges so many young veterans face when their tour is over, and this is where K9s For Warriors comes in. K9s For Warriors has rescued over 1,100 dogs and 580 warriors so far. That’s very heartwarming and wonderful to hear!

You can make a donatation to K9s For Warriors here!

Related Articles:

Veterans Day: 10 Service & Therapy Dogs Helping Veterans [VIDEOS]

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