Pairing a dog to a warrior is an intricate process that combines the professional expertise of both warrior and dog trainers. Each dog under consideration for our program must pass an extensive health, history, and behavioral evaluation. The goal is for a dog to maintain good health, so it will be able to serve a warrior without any complications. Most of the dogs that graduate go on to live healthy lives full of purpose and happiness. But, as many of us know all too well, the unexpected can strike without warning; it’s life!
Twenty percent of the 1.7 million men and women who served in Iraq and Afghanistan have been diagnosed with PTSD. There are many veterans out there that have not been diagnosed, so the number of those afflicted by the devastating disability is likely much higher than 1.7 million. The veterans who are diagnosed and seek treatment often cannot find an option that actually heals their wounds.
At K9s For Warriors, we are in the business of supporting our military and veterans each day of the year. Warriors from every branch of the service enter into our program, and showing them gratitude is always a priority. Because military appreciation month is in May, we would like to give you some ideas on how you can appreciate our heroes.
Mother’s Day is a time to honor the women who go beyond the call of duty as mothers. Shari Duval embraces the role of motherhood with strength and purpose. She is a mother to over 300 disabled veterans and the founder of our organization. After Shari’s son, Brett, came home from Iraq with PTSD, She was desperate to find an effective treatment method for him. Because Brett was a civilian bomb dog handler, Shari understood that canines had a profound impact on her son.
If you’ve followed K9s For Warriors during the last year, then you’ve probably heard about the PAWS Act. It’s a bill introduced last year by Florida Congressman Ron DeSantis, pushing the VA to fund service dogs as a PTSD treatment option for post-9/11 veterans. Although we are the nation’s largest and leading service dog organization, we simply do not have the resources to accommodate the tens of thousands of veterans who could benefit from having their own service dog. The need for this l
A warrior receives a service dog, trains, graduates, and then returns home with the dog. Once the warrior gets settled, he/she discovers in what situations the dog will provide the best assistance. Warriors are not required to take their service dog everywhere with them. K9s For Warriors does not enforce a policy that states that warrior-dog teams have to be together for a set amount of hours in a day. It is true, however, that a warrior can bring their service dog in any place the public is permitted. Many warriors bring their dogs to work with them.
In order to be a successful service dog, there are specific qualities that a canine must possess. One of the most important characteristics is confidence. Warriors rely on their dogs to get them through moments of high stress. Dogs that become fearful easily could increase a warrior’s anxiety levels instead of decreasing them. Service dogs also need to be calm. If a dog is aggressive, it can create a negative experience for the warrior while also becoming a safety liability.
K9s For Warriors provides service dogs to post-9/11 veterans suffering from the invisible wounds of war.
Sometimes we hear individuals referring to our service dogs as support or therapy dogs, which is not correct. Although service, emotional support, and therapy dogs all do very important jobs, they are very different.
What is a service dog?
K9s For Warriors is not like other service dog organizations. The training is intense and program participants are required to stay on campus for 21 days. What really sets K9s apart from other organizations, however, is the very personal and family-oriented feel of the environment. Nested on nine acres of land, each portion of Camp K9 was built with the warrior’s needs and comfort in mind. The main building consists of the administration office and the warrior clubhouse. Large kitchen, dining areas, living areas, a library, and a gym make up the clubhouse.
As a service dog organization, we are in the business of providing highly-trained dogs to disabled veterans who absolutely need them. As hard as it may be to imagine, there are individuals out there who try to pass their pets off as service dogs. This is shameful and is very degrading to those who actually need a service dog to live their daily lives. The topic of fake service dogs is controversial. Although, legally, service dogs are not required to wear vests, at K9s For Warriors, we always tell our warriors to have their dogs “vested” while in public.