Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is a very real epidemic amongst veterans and affects up to 30 percent of all soldiers; 184 new cases are diagnosed every single day, with PTSD leading to tragic consequences. According to the Department of Veterans Affairs, one soldier commits suicide every 65 minutes. One of the "natural cures" for PTSD are service dogs, and to help contribute to the cure, the pet-lifestyle organization Animal Fair has partnered with K9s for Warriors.
K9s for Warriors removes dogs from shelters and transports them back to their facility. After having a complete physical, the dogs are trained to meet CGC (Canine Good Citizen) standards, and are paired with a veteran with PTSD based upon his/her special needs and the special tasks the dog is most capable of performing. It costs approximately $10,000 to graduate one veteran/canine team from the time the dog is accepted into training. This includes housing, feeding and training with his veteran for three weeks.
Shari Duval (wife of PGA Tour golfer Bobby Duval) was inspired by her own son to start the K9s program. She explains, "My son, Brett Simon, returned home from two tours in Iraq as a bomb dog handler. I didn't even know what PTSD was. I only knew that my son came home a different person... Our family noticed that when he was with his canines he was better, more like the 'old Brett.' Our family had the resources to help Brett, but we knew most do not. I spent two years researching service dog therapy and finally decided to open the K9's For Warrior Program/Rescue."
Duval is proud of the K9s for Warriors Program's successes thus far. "The warriors arrive here broken on two legs and leave here walking into their recovery on six," she says. "They are able to go and do things that weren't possible before they received their service dog. These dogs provide more medical improvement for the warriors than all the drugs they have been placed on."
As part of an ongoing "Bark Breakfast" tour that matches rescued dogs with veterans with PTSD, the next major event for Animal Fair and K9s for Warrior Program will be held at the Omni Hotel in Dallas on August 16, starting at 8 am. Ellen DeGeneres' pet food company, Halo, Purely for Pets is a sponsor, along with American Express Open and the Omni Hotel, where event participants will celebrate our wounded veterans and rally to raise awareness and donations for our American heroes that have sacrificed selflessly for our country. Dogs are welcome at the breakfast.
During this event and during the tour, K9s for Warriors are looking for donations that will help match veterand with PTSD with trained service dogs, with 94% of every dollar going to the cause. For more information on the Dallas event, and to sign up or donate, see the flyer at the bottom of this page, and view this information page.
Honored in Dallas
Kevin, who will be honored in Dallas, was a United States Army Staff Sergeant and served 12 years. He graduated K9s For Warriors where he was paired with Patriot, a Labrador. Patriot, a small black lab with a big heart, was found in the Flagler Humane Society. The head trainer at K9s For Warriors had decided to release Patriot from the program due to concerns for his size but Patriot had another idea. The day Kevin arrived at K9s For Warriors, Patriot was playing with a volunteer and he raced over to Kevin, jumped into his lap and declared this was his warrior. Kevin asked if Patriot could be his dog and the trainers said they were concerned he was too small but they would give it a few days and see. That night Kevin had a terrible nightmare and Patriot gently woke him up, and with that, Patriot was declared his service dog. The two have gone on many outings since they graduated from the K9s For Warriors' program, including posing for a picture with President Bush at a golf tournament.
About K9s for Warriors
K9s For Warriors' academy is staffed by skilled certified canine handlers and trainers. Each academy is three weeks in length where veterans learn the skills needed to train their own canines. We provide a service canine, training, certification, equipment, seminars, vet care, most meals, and housing, free of charge. Each warrior is responsible for their own transportation to and from our facility which is located in Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida. Classes are limited to three to five warriors in each session.
K9s For Warriors is supported by The Wounded Warrior Project, Birdies for the Brave, Warrior Gateway, and many other military organizations. We highly recommend each applicant contact one of our many alumni to hear for themselves the positive recovery changes after attending our Academy. We feel the best way to gain the knowledge of our methods, and training techniques is to talk to fellow Veterans for their recommendations. K9s For Warriors will provide such information upon request.
K9s For Warriors will be accepting over fifty warriors for our Academy in a calendar year. Our goal is to help our warriors return to civilian life with dignity and independence. They fought for our tomorrows, we will fight for theirs.