Sunday, November 19, 2017

K9s For Warriors Rescues Dogs, So Dogs Can Rescue Warriors

In October I had the pleasure and privilege of  visiting K9s For Warriors in Ponte Vedra, Florida.  They are the nation's largest provider of service dogs to Military Veterans suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disability (PTSD), Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) and/or Military Sexual Trauma as a result of military service post - 9/11.

Tragically, every day at least 22 Veterans commit suicide in America

Since 9/11, there have been over 130,000 Veteran suicides.  That is not acceptable on any level!  These Veterans risked their lives and made huge sacrifices so the rest of us can enjoy the safety and freedom our great country provides.  K9s For Warriors Mission is to STOP these daily suicides from PTSD altogether.  They developed a program that pairs Veterans with trained service dogs, most of whom are shelter rescues, that enables Veterans to return to civilian life with dignity and independence, while reducing their risk for suicide.

K9s For Warriors is helping Veterans suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disability, Traumatic Brain Injury and/or Military Sexual Trauma through Service Dogs, many of whom are animal shelter rescues.
The welcoming front porch at K9s For Warriors in Ponte Vedre, Florida
I'm a proud member of the Bayer Animal Health Pet Influencer Team.  My travel expenses to visit K9's For Warriors were paid for by Bayer Animal Health. I believe in the work K9s For Warriors is doing to help Veterans, and I want to share information about this amazing organization.

OVER 3.5 MILLION DOGS ARE EUTHANIZED IN SHELTERS EACH YEAR!  MANY OF THEM CAN BE TRAINED TO BE SERVICE DOGS FOR VETERANS IN NEED 


๐Ÿ’” 20% of post-9/11 Veterans suffer from PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disability).

๐Ÿ’” 10% of post -9/11 combat Veterans, 338,514 men and women, have been diagnosed with a traumatic brain injury (TBI).

๐Ÿ’” Tragically, every day at least 22 Veterans,  many of whom suffer from PTSD, commit suicide in America.

๐Ÿ’œ The average Veteran is taking 10 - 15 medications when he/she begins the K9's For Warriors program.  92% of these Veterans have eliminated or reduced prescription medications after they graduate from K9's For Warriors!

"When doctors kept giving me medication, K9s For Warriors gave me a spectacular service dog who has given me a second chance at living" -  Tiffany, a 2015 K9s For Warriors program Graduate

๐Ÿ’œ There are over 3.5 million dogs euthanized in shelters every year!  Many of these are great dogs that can be trained to be service dogs to help Veterans.  The majority of the dogs in the K9s For Warriors program are shelter rescues.


Check out this video of adorable Bo, one of the dogs being trained to be a service dog at K9s For Warriors.  I think Bo stole everyone's heart that day!  He's doing so well in his training, just look at that FOCUS!  Bo is 2 years old, he was found as a stray in the streets of Ocala, Florida. 



REQUIREMENTS FOR A DOG TO BE CONSIDERED FOR THE K9s FOR WARRIORS PROGRAM


๐Ÿถ Dogs must be Under 2 years of age and weigh at least 50 lbs.   A senior dog may not have enough years of service to give to a Veteran.  A lighter weight dog may not be strong enough to pull a wheelchair or assist in "bracing", which is helping the Veteran if s/he needs help getting up.

๐Ÿถ No bully breeds are accepted, mainly because of the potential for members of the public to have negative reactions to them.  I know, that sounds so unfair right!  But it's critical that a Veteran and service dog be welcomed and not potentially feared due to negative public reaction - fair or not, real or imagined.

๐Ÿถ K9's For Warriors maintains approximately 52 dogs on property that are in training.

๐Ÿถ As of last month, 367 dogs have been placed with Veterans in need!

๐Ÿถ The K9s For Warriors program saves two lives - the life of the dog that is rescued and trained for service, and the life of the Veteran who receives the trained service dog.  I like those numbers a lot!

๐Ÿถ The majority of the dogs trained for service in the program are rescued from shelters.  Most are adopted directly from shelters by K9s For Warriors, some have been obtained from prison programs, where select prisoners spend their days training dogs to become service dogs.

K9s For Warriors rescues dogs and trains them so they can rescue Veterans.  Service Dog, Service Canine,
There's a swimming pool shaped like a dog bone at the K9s For Warriors facility!

๐Ÿถ When selecting dogs from a shelter or rescue, K9s For Warriors does an assessment to see if they will be a good fit for the program.  They test the dog to assess their ability to cope with loud noises,  how they react meeting strangers and other dogs.  They are also assessed for food aggression.

๐Ÿถ We spoke with the staff member who works with local shelters and rescues to recruit dogs for the program.  She explained that being food motivated was also an important trait for a dog to enter their program.  They need to be motivated by food or treats in order to fit well into their training program.

๐Ÿถ Once at the facility, K9s For Warriors quarantines the dogs for 10 days to ensure they show no signs for rabies or other diseases.  They perform blood work as well, testing for heartworm and other ailments.

๐Ÿถ If a rescue dog doesn't make it through the program successfully, K9s For Warriors works to ensure the dog finds a loving home.  They never send a dog back to the shelter!  They will work to find a good home for any dog that doesn't work out, which rarely happens according to the organization.

THE PROCESS FOR THE VETERAN


๐Ÿ’œ Once accepted into the 3 week program and given a start date, the Veteran lives at the facility for 3 weeks.  Note: there is a waiting list to get into this wonderful program.  As of October 2017 the waiting list is about 11 months long.  The program is provided at NO COST to the Veteran.  

๐Ÿ’œ Veterans are provided with a trained service K9, housing, meals, equipment, veterinary care and 120 hours of training with their new service dog.  As of October, 2017 367 Veteran-K9 teams have graduated from the program!

๐Ÿ’œ The facility in Florida is beautiful, it has a genuine homey feel.  The grounds are lovely and the staff is warm and welcoming.  Many community volunteers cook meals for the Veterans and deliver them to the facility!

"I found the program through the NJ State Police and Troopers Assisting Troops where I met K9s For warriors founder, Shari Duval.  I had attempted suicide a few months prior and Troopers recommended I call Shari and get a service dog.  My dog Bernie has given me the security to leave my comfort zone.  Going through the program has given me peace of mind, and Bernie helps to mitigate my PTSD and Operational Stress" - James, a 2016 K9s For Warriors program graduate

๐Ÿ’œ When they graduate from the program the Veteran gets a trained service dog for rest of his/her life no matter what happens!  When a dog retires, dies, or becomes too old to perform his duties the Veteran can choose to keep their dog as a pet.   K9s for Warriors would help them find a new home for the dog if needed.   A service dog is usually retired at approximately 8 years old, but that depends on the individual dog and their abilities.  

๐Ÿ’œ K9s For Warriors stays in touch with their graduates long term, after they graduate from the program.


The beautiful K9s For Warriors facility where rescue dogs are trained to become service dogs for Veterans of war.
K9s For Warriors facility, where Veterans live and train with their service dog while in the program.  Pictured is the living room with TV, and kitchen and dining room in the background.

๐Ÿ’œ K9s For Warriors also help Veterans with veterinary bills for the dogs placed with them.  They partner with local Veterinarians, and there are even mobile veterinary units available.   They work to obtain discounts or free services for the Veterans. 

๐Ÿ’• ๐Ÿ’• ๐Ÿ’• ๐Ÿ’• ๐Ÿ’• ๐Ÿ’•

K9s for Warriors was created in 2011 out of a mother's love and concern for her son.  Shari Duval's son Brett returned home as a contractor from Iraq with Post Traumatic Stress Disability (PTSD).  Because Brett was a K9 Police Officer, Shari wanted to find a way to help him, through his love for canines.  After researching service dogs and PTSD she knew she had found an amazing way to improve Brett's life that could also help other Veterans.  We had the pleasure of meeting Brett while at the facility, where he now works to help other Veterans just as his Mom helped him!

I'm so impressed by all the great work K9s For Warriors is doing to help Veterans suffering from PTSD, TBI, and Military Sexual Trauma as a result of military service post - 9/11.  I loved visiting their facility, meeting their passionate staff, and seeing some of the dogs in training.  

Watch this video, called Dear Captain, to see first hand how a  K9s For Warriors service dog helped a Veteran in desperate need.  Grab a tissue folks, it's a tear-jerker for sure.



I want to thank Bayer Animal Health for inviting us along on this inspiring and insightful visit to see how K9s For Warriors is helping Veterans in need!  Thanks to Bayer for being such a great supporter of K9's For Warriors.  Their sponsorship helps K9s For Warriors continue providing this valuable service to Veterans suffering from PTSD.  Here's what Bayer Animal Health had to say about their partnership:

"Our partnership with K9s For Warriors was incredibly impactful to our employees, our customers and pet owners.  Because the partnership demonstrates Bayer Animal Health's mission of passionately caring for animals, our employee's rallied behind the cause, as it adds meaning to why we come to work every day.  Their engagement was genuine and inspiring.  They embraced Bayer, and supported the K9s For Warriors cause through in-store merchandising and promotions.  But more importantly, we were able to do well while doing good for others, and likely help save precious lives."

Proud member of the Bayer Animal Health Pet Influencer Team


K9s For Warriors is in 43 states & Puerto Rico.   They have been working to get food and supplies to their Veterans in Puerto Rico. 

I hope you enjoyed learning about this incredible program that helps Veterans in need!  Please leave us a comment, we'd love to know your thoughts!


12 comments:

  1. What an amazing program. Thanks for sharing it with us.

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    1. It really is amazing how this program can impact the life of a Veteran in need. It really has saved lives!

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  2. This is wonderful! A service dog really have a postive impact on a person's life. I applaud them for our veterans in need.

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    1. Oh definitely, these dogs provide amazing support to the Veterans they serve. K9s for Warriors is a great organization.

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  3. It is so awesome that Bayer sent you to explore the K9s for Warriors program. Those statistics are heartbreaking. We must do better and I'm glad this organization is leading the way.

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    1. They really are heartbreaking, and so totally unacceptable. I'm glad K9s For Warriors is helping to reduce & hopefully eliminate these awful stats.

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  4. Bo is just the cutest thing what a lucky warrior that got him! Great job on telling K9s story and how they help so many veterans.

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    1. I know right!? I love Bo! I'm glad you enjoyed the post, thank you!

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  5. Such an amazing program and organization. James' quote brings tears and chills... our vets deserve so much, and this is just such a wonderful program. How wonderful you were able to visit the facility! Saving dogs who save veterans... just wonderful. <3 Sharing!

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    1. It's really shocking that so much help is needed. You're right, our Vets deserve so much after all the sacrifices they've made for us, now it's their turn to get help.

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  6. My dad is a combat veteran with PTSD so I'm so happy to learn of this program. I had no idea they were shelter dogs - though it is interesting and sad that they can't accept bully breeds into the program.

    It's also amazing that they stay in touch with the veterans and the dogs for life. And wow 92% of veterans are able to reduce their medication!!! That's truly amazing. Thanks for sharing your experience. I learned a lot and am so impressed with this program!

    I don't know how I missed this post but glad I found it today!

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    1. I had no idea about your Dad! I'm sorry to hear that, it must be so hard for him, and for your family. It is a shame they don't accept bully breeds but I understand where they're coming from. The much bigger shame is how these wonderful dogs are perceived by some people, mainly due to their own ignorance & the media's portrayal of these dogs. This program is terrific, they do so much to help Veterans, I love how they stay in touch with the Vets after they graduate the program and provide lifelong support.

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