We rescue dogs from shelters so they can rescue our veterans from PTSD, physical ailments, loneliness, and so much more. Service dogs are like battle buddies to our disabled veterans. They will always be there; keeping crowds at bay; waking their owners from nightmares; warding off anxiety attacks; and returning a vital sense of independence to their handlers.
When your dog can pick up the pen you dropped, fetch medication and get help when needed, there's no need to rely on a spouse or child for everything. That improves confidence and self-worth, which helps the whole family.
Training a service dog generally takes six months to a year. Sometimes longer. It all depends on the dog, the type of tasks the service dog must master and how easily the dog and handler progress as a team. We never rush the process. Each team is on a unique journey. The timeframe that's right for one team isn't necessarily right for another.
What makes our program so unique is the extensive attention we give the dog and veteran. There's no "10-days and you're ready to face the world" program here. We do all our training in the real world and critique at every turn. A dog may be perfect in a quiet room, but a busy Walmart is a different story. We want our dogs to experience every strange sight, sound, texture and smell they possibly can.
We test our service dogs every two years, to make sure their skills are still razor sharp. Every dog we train not only represents us, but all service dogs. So it's up to our teams to show the world how a true service dog should behave in public. It should be unobtrusive and focused solely on its handler. The better behaved our dogs are, the greater acceptance all people with disabilities will enjoy with their dogs by their sides.
We like to start with dogs between 1 and 3 years old -- young, but after the goofy puppy phase is over. All our dogs come from distress situations. We find them in local shelters or intervene before they get there. We will also train a pet that is already part of the veteran's life, if the dog has the right stuff. We'll do an extensive evaluation to find out.
Their mission was to keep us free. Ours is to give them the freedom to enjoy life again.