Shelter Dogs Help Veterans Cope with PTSD

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Have you or your family, friends, or coworkers benefited from the companionship of a service dog? These days, service animals provide a variety of benefits to aid the physical or mental impairments of their caretakers.



Those who have psychiatric conditions are seemingly the most in need, with military veterans suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) being at high risk for self-harm, including suicide.

The Unites States Department of Veterans Affairs reports that every 65 minutes a veteran commits suicide. Additionally, a "study analyzing data from the National Comorbidity Survey, a nationally representative sample, showed that PTSD alone out of six anxiety diagnoses was significantly associated with suicidal ideation or attempts (13)." Therefore, there is a strong correlation between PTSD and military-veteran suicide. An alarming 755,200 veterans suffer from PTSD and 184 new cases are diagnosed every day.

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Fortunately, there's a new wave of outreach; concerned individuals who are striving to help veterans by raising funds so a service dog can be acquired to provide much needed companionship and assistance with day-to-day living.

K9s For Warriors is a unique organization that rescues dogs and trains them to be service dogs for veterans with PTSD and Traumatic Brain Injury. The dogs chosen to be part of K9s for Warriors are pulled from shelters, saved from the potential fate of euthanasia, and trained to meet Canine Good Citizen standards before being paired with their warriors.

The Executive Director and founder of K9s For Warriors, Shari Duval (wife of PGA TOUR player Bobby Duval), donates her time to the cause and takes no salary for her efforts. Duval's devotion to veterans and their re-assimilation into society is inspired by her own son's time in the service.

Duvall 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 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 K9s For Warriors. The warriors arrive here broken on two legs and leave here on six legs recovered. 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."

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Animal Fair's Wendy Diamond, best-selling author, entrepreneur, pet-lifestyle expert, and TV personality has championed the K9s for Warriors cause and is hosting the Bark Business Benefit Tour, a series of awareness and fundraising events, in multiple cities across the U.S. Due to Diamond's efforts, the Tour has attracted support from Halo Purely For Pets (Ellen DeGeneres's pet food company), American Express Open, Loews hotels, and Omni hotels.

This heartwarming YouTube video Wendy Diamond And Animal Fair Support K9s For Warriors! helps make clear the importance of your support. Additionally, a recent article in the Huffington Post explains K9s for Warriors's efforts.

Diamond (and I) hope you will inspire your troops (friends, family, etc.) to join our fundraiser, attend the L.A. Bark Breakfast Benefit (Saturday October 5, 2013 at 10 AM at the Omni - Downtown Los Angeles), and be a part of history by helping a Los Angeles-based Veteran with PTSD participate in the K9s for Warriors program.

K9s For Warriors donates 94 percent of every dollar received directly to the veterans and their service dogs. The remaining 6 percent is used on fundraising and overhead.

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I've started my own Crowdrise fundraising page, Help Fund a Military Veteran's Service Dog Through K9s for Warriors, in anticipation of the upcoming Los Angeles event. Please join me at the event by donating $116 for your ticket. But even if you can't attend, please contribute any amount within your budget ($20, $40, $100, etc.), or if you can afford more, become the honorary chair in Los Angeles for $10,000! Diamond's very realistic goal is to raise at least $100,000 by Veteran's Day and we are well on the way.

If you can't afford to donate, please help spread the word and direct those who can help our cause by posting on your social media channels (e.g., Facebook, Twitter etc.) via this link: Help Fund a Military Veteran's Service Dog Through K9s for Warriors.

Thank you.

Dr. Patrick Mahaney

"Shelter Dogs Help Veterans Cope with PTSD" originally appeared on PetMD.com.

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