In the three months since this latest Global Giving project was created, Operation Freedom Paws has interviewed and accepted seven veteran applicants to our service dog program. One is a Vietnam vet, three served during Desert Storm, and three were stationed in Iraq/Afghanistan. One is a woman. They served in the Army, Navy, Marines and Air Force. Despite these differences, they are united by their experiences in the military, its after-effects, and their desire to find a different way to manage their injuries. All have been diagnosed with Post-Traumatic Stress (PTS). All struggle in crowds, avoid gatherings of family and friends, find it difficult to communicate, and have nightmares. All have contemplated suicide.
Immediately after being accepted into the program, each veteran was matched with a pre-screened dog chosen for that person. The dogs are as individual as the humans, and making the match is the beginning of building trust in the dog and in our program.
The first of this group of veterans, interviewed just before Christmas, was facing additional challenges. Fred (not his real name) and his family had been living in Paradise, California before last fall’s devastating wildfires destroyed their entire town and left him, his parents and his fiancée homeless. They considered themselves lucky to all be living together in a camper in a parking lot. Matching Fred with his dog and getting him into classes gave him a glimmer of hope.
In the intervening seven weeks, Fred has started to smile. He and his dog are already incredibly bonded. She has helped him cope with the difficulties of finding a place for his parents. He takes tremendous pride in her ability to keep him calm. He tells us about their triumphs between class sessions, and looks forward to training.
This is just one example of how your investment in these service dog teams is changing (and saving) lives.