The training of our dogs is performed on a daily basis by an excellent group of trainers. Trainers work with our dogs in three different phases: beginning, intermediate, and advanced. Dogs in the beginning phase train in basic obedience, socialization, and kennel manners. The intermediate phase introduces public access training and going out to places with trainers. They also start their task training, learning commands such as block, cover, and brace.
With only so many hours in a day, it always amazes us how our volunteers always find time to help us. They cook delicious meals for our veterans, raise puppies for our program, and tend to our kennels on campus. Some knit warm blankets for our service dogs. Others send thoughtful gift baskets for our program recipients. Together, they make up an eclectic mix of people with a variety of experiences, skills, and talents.
Because our program is based on the philosophy that veterans should be involved in their own recovery, their training is meant to put them outside their comfort zone. The days are long and challenging. Warriors train with their dogs for nearly 8 hours a day. The warrior passenger bus departs for the day around 8:30am for public access training. Lectures, training sessions, dog-grooming, and field trips are some of the key elements of this vital instruction.
When you encounter a service dog team during travel, the best thing you can do is respectfully admire them from afar. You may be tempted to pet the dog, but remember – the dog is working and should not be distracted. Keep in mind that you do not know what disability the handler may have. Distracting a service dog could cause the dog to miss a cue that his handler may be going into a medical emergency.
When our warriors are out in public with their dogs and families, so much is going through their minds. They want to enjoy their time out, but they are also focused on things they cannot control. It can sometimes be a challenge in certain places or situations to have a dog. So many things can happen, but you can help by making sure you understand the things you should not do around them.
Do Not Talk to the Dog While Ignoring the Warrior
There is one question that all puppy raisers are asked: how can you raise a puppy just to give it to someone else? It is a hypothetical question, and here is how we answer it. We don’t close our hearts off - that is impossible. We don’t claim it will be easy – it is not. One thing we certainly do, however, is just accept the experience for what it is. We know from the beginning that this isn’t about us. We are choosing to surrender to the cause. Throughout the experience, we try our very best to care for the dog without getting too involved. But, that doesn’t happen.
Most of us have experienced the soothing comfort that an animal can bring. One minute we are down in the dumps, then with a quick lick to our face, a dog makes us smile. It makes sense that dogs can help ease the symptoms of PTSD, but how exactly?
The ADA, or, The Americans with Disabilities Act, was created in 1990 to prohibit discrimination and to ensure people with disabilities have equal opportunities for employment, public accommodations, transportation, and commercial facilities.
ADA.gov. (n.d.). Retrieved March 08, 2017, from https://www.ada.gov/2010_regs.htm
Last year, we experienced many wonderful achievements and milestones. Now that the 2016 chapter of K9s For Warriors’ story has concluded, it is time to turn the page and shift our focus to 2017. I am proud to inform you that I have stepped into a new role at K9s For Warriors - Chief Executive Officer. I plan to use my legal background, entrepreneurial spirit, and leadership skills to guide this organization to a direction of additional growth and prosperity.
The other night, I was done. I felt more alone than I ever have in my life. My family was at their breaking point with me. I was sobbing in front of my kids, at which point my ex-wife had to take them somewhere so they wouldn't see me like that.