(PRESS RELEASE)_PALM BEACH/BREVARD COUNTY, FL – May is National Military Appreciation Month, a time when Americans everywhere pay tribute to the dedicated service members who take a sacred oath to protect and serve our country. However, for many veterans, the return home from war can be yet another daunting battle as they nurse wounds that might not be visible on the surface. Tragically, 184 veterans a day are diagnosed with post-traumatic stress, and 20 take their own lives as a result.
South Florida nonprofit, American Humane aims to help these heroes with its Pups4Patriots program, which finds dogs in need of forever homes and trains them to become service dogs for veterans across the country at absolutely no cost to the veterans themselves.
Service dogs can transform the lives of these veterans and give them a renewed sense of purpose. Research shows that specially trained service dogs can reduce stress and anxiety levels in veterans while easing reintegration into social settings and restoring confidence to those managing traumatic brain injuries or post-traumatic stress.
Since the program began, American Humane has graduated 70 teams, including this year’s latest duo: Charles and Shiloh from Brevard County, Florida.
Charles was deployed to Iraq and served in the Army from 2005 to 2009. After ending his service, the Florida native struggled to adapt back into civilian life with his family, whether it was successfully falling asleep at night or joining his wife in attending a crowded event.
When he saw a Pups4Patriots program video on YouTube while conducting general research into acquiring a service dog, he leapt into action and decided that he was the latest patriot in need of a pup.
“My wife likes to go more places than I’m comfortable going, so being able to do more stuff with her will be a great thing,” Charles said. “Most of the time I tell her to find a friend and just go, because I’m not much for going to places where there are crowds and lots of people.”
Once accepted into the program, Charles was paired with a male Labrador Retriever named Shiloh, and the two worked with an American Humane trainer to complete a “boot camp” that was a little furrier than the one he attended in the Army.
“Throughout the week there’s even more of a connection and you’re falling in love with the dog and the dog is falling in love with me,” Charles said. “The training was getting the dog to connect with me, and, at the same time, it was me connecting with Shiloh and building that trust between each other.”
Service dogs are an invaluable asset to veterans who have sustained trauma, but there are significant obstacles to receiving one. Properly training a dog so they perform their needed tasks and remain calm and focused in public areas can be both expensive and time-consuming, with costs which can skyrocket upwards of $30,000. And even when cost isn’t an obstacle, wait times can still be prohibitively long.
Through the Pups4Patriots program, American Humane provides no-cost service dogs to veterans in both a timely and efficient manner. The Pups4Patriots program, and its training of teams like Charles and Shiloh, is made possible through donor support.
“No matter what your limitations are, no matter what your physical or mental issues may be, a service dog will be the best thing for you,” Charles said. “It will help break you out of that shell that you’ve put yourself in over time.”
For more information about the Pups4Patriots program, visit americanhumane.org/initiative/pts-service-dogs-for-veterans and watch youtu.be/t1vTwfRcT2I.
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