Wendy Diamond is well-known as a social entrepreneur, humanitarian, endangered animal and rescue advocate, a pet lifestyle expert, best-selling author and TV personality. Diamond started the Animal Fair Media in 1999 with one mission: to save animals from being euthanized in shelters and promote animal welfare and rescue, pet lifestyle and responsible breeding. Now she has teamed up with K9s For Warriors which aims to help rehabiliate troops diagnosed with PTSD and traumatic brain injury. Together the two hope to heal wounded warriors.
Please explain how important pet therapy is for troops suffering with PTSD.
After hearing and reading about the following facts, I was moved me to the core and I just knew I had to get involved and rally as many people as possible nationally to get active: every 60 minutes a U.S. Veteran commits suicide, most suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). The Department of Veterans Affairs states that Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) affects nearly 30% all soldiers and184 new cases are diagnosed daily. This is an alarming statistic, but studies prove dogs are very therapeutic, healing, and warriors with PTSD and military-related stresses and injuries greatly benefit.
Despite the VA agreeing with the therapeutic potential of service dogs for PTSD sufferers, the dogs aren’t covered by any insurance plan. Fortunately, there are nonprofit organizations dedicated to providing canine service dogs to Veterans, such as K9s For Warriors! Service dogs are the warrior’s new “battle buddy”! When in a combat zone soldiers are never really physically alone, they are always with their unit. Often when returning home veterans feel isolated and alone – a service dog gives them a new unit of two. They never feel empty and alone again.
A service dog is always more attentive and vigilant than a person would ever be, so it allows the warrior to let their guard down and let the dog “man the post.” They also start to focus completely on their dog and stop focusing on their own personal issues; it becomes a very healing experience for the veteran. The service dog will react to anxiety/panic attacks and provide grounding and reassurance. In addition service dogs will wake warriors from nightmares and flashbacks and are custom trained to each warrior’s specific needs including; retrieving prosthetic limbs, canes and dropped items, and assist with getting out of bed or chairs for mobility-restricted warriors.
How can others give back to K9 For Warriors?
After learning the troubling statistic that every 65 minutes a veteran struggling with PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) commits suicide, I made the conscious decision to embark on a journey to help veterans suffering with PTSD and pair them with rescued service dogs by partnering with K9s For Warriors. The beauty of the The K9s For Warriors Program is that they pulls dogs from shelters prior to being euthanized and trains them to meet Canine Good Citizen standards. Upon completion, they are paired with a Veteran with PTSD based upon the special needs of the Veteran and the special tasks the dog is most capable of performing. In this valiant effort, the program costs approximately $10,000 to graduate one Veteran/canine pair.
I dedicated my new book, How To Train Your Boss to Roll Over, to all the veterans who work tirelessly and selflessly defending our freedoms. My book is an entertaining and instructional manual threaded with levity and wit that reinterprets successful dog-training strategies for the workplace. Instead of having a strictly promotional book tour, I created The Bark Business ten-city national tour and tied-in the K9s For Warriors program. This tour is uniquely exciting as I will be raising awareness and donations for the K9s For Warriors. The ten city nationwide tour will promote a positive work environment, with both small and large businesses, CEO’s, CFO’s, entrepreneurs, celebrities all joining together for social good by supporting K9s For Warriors!
Veterans have fought selflessly for our freedom and it’s time that the two and four-legged roll over and fight for them. I knew that getting social media involved would bring in even more awareness, support and donations. I linked the Bark Business Tour with a Crowdrise website fundraiser. The fundraiser is 100% transparent, 94 cents of every dollar will help a Veteran with PTSD receive a service dog from K9s For Warriors. Each donor or benefactor personally has the chance to follow each Veteran and service dog saved through social media. We encourage everyone to donate $10, $50, $100, $500, $1,000 or sponsor a Veteran/Service Dog Team for $10,000 - any amount they can afford to help this foundation!
Guests at the Bark Business tour can buy tickets but also can create their own personal Crowdrise fundraiser to inspire friends, family and coworkers to support a Veteran and service dog. Proceeds raised from each individual city will directly benefit the warrior from that location – giving donors the power to decide exactly where their money goes and ability to support Veterans in their local community! Donors who support K9s For Warriors or attend the Bark Business Benefits are able to personally choose which of the ten cities they want to donate to or attend through Social Media and email updates donors will be able to follow and track the Veteran and service dog they personally helped save. BARK ABOUT IT – DONATE – VOLUNTEER – SHARE - GATHER YOUR TROOPS – TELL FRIENDS, CO- WORKERS & FAMILY! CREATE A FUNDRAISER!
What is the most touching story you have heard about a soldier and their pet?
In Nashville at our Bark Business Benefit on July 24th, 2013, we honored Alex, 27, who served in the United States Army for six years, and graduated from K9s For Warriors in August 2012. His story really touched my heart. He was paired with Skip, a Labradoodle. Skip was found wandering the roads in Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida and taken to Ponte Vedra Beach Animal Hospital. They tried to find his owner but no one ever claimed Skip, and he was donated to the K9s For Warriors program. At first Alex wasn’t sure Skip, a Labradoodle, was the right breed for him! But Skip quickly won Alex over with his lovable personality. Alex also learned that Skip is a magnet for the ladies – an added bonus! Alex says Skip is the reason why he was able to eliminate prescription medications for severe PTSD (after trying to take his own life) and was given the clearance from the VA to stop counseling. Skip was the four-legged furry prescription Alex needed to recover and regain his life.
What is your hope for our veterans with PTSD?
I hope to raise as much money through the Bark Business national tour and pair as many Veterans with service dogs through the K9s For Warriors program across the country as possible! Through national media outlets covering the Bark Business Benefit and the Crowdrise fundraising campaign site, I want to create a national call to action! By doing so, I aim to motivate people at home, at the workplace, and in the local community to actively participate with bringing awareness to the plight of Veterans with PTSD and brain injuries to the forefront of the public arena, as well as the healing process that service dogs provide. I’m on a mission to rally as many people nationally to become active and support our Veterans who have sacrificed so selflessly for our country. Donors and participants that support K9s For Warriors or attend the Bark Business Benefits can personally follow their city team; Veteran and service dog through Social Media, Crowdrise and email updates! Save A Veteran – Save A Dog!