Did you know that 8 million Americans suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) each year, many of them military veterans? People diagnosed with PTSD often have lived through or been a witness to a traumatic event and may suffer from intense flashbacks or intrusive thoughts related to what occurred. June is National PTSD Awareness Month, which aims to highlight the treatment options that veterans (and others affected by the disorder) can pursue to improve their quality of life.
One such treatment is the free, six-month service dog program championed by K9 Partners for Patriots. This Brooksville-based nonprofit organization operates under the mindset that not all scars are visible, and is on a mission to prevent veteran suicide by teaching vets with PTSD and other forms of trauma how to train their own service dog (which is provided by the program at no cost to the vet).
To qualify for the K9 Partners for Patriots program, you must be an active or former military vet who can provide proof of diagnosis of service-related PTSD, a traumatic brain injury (TBI) or military sexual trauma (MST). Vets are not required to have served in combat to qualify. Veterans also must have documented proof of an honorable character of service on their DD214 Long Form. To find out if you or a loved one may qualify for the K9 Partners for Patriots program, find the full list of qualifications at https://k9partnersforpatriots.com/do-i-qualify/.
The K9 Partners for Patriots program requires veterans to attend weekly 90-minute class sessions over the course of 24 consecutive weeks. During the first three weeks in the program, veterans will sit in on classes held at the training facility simply to observe. Training courses typically do not exceed more than 10 veterans per class, and in time, these cohorts become each other’s community.
Each veteran gets paired with a dog that has been pre-vetted by the organization and is a perfect fit for the individual veteran (sometimes veterans’ own dogs may be permitted to be trained as a service dog, but the organization must evaluate and approve it first). Dogs are rescued from local shelters and belong to the vets after being matched up. Pups and patriots complete 21 weeks of hands-on training courses that teach the veterans how to train their dogs and help the dogs learn how to work for the veterans. Once veterans graduate from the program, they will have successfully trained their companion to be able to work as a service dog for them in any setting. Dogs must be recertified with the organization each year.
Does this cause resonate with you? Take part in raising awareness for those suffering from PTSD. During National PTSD Awareness Month, spread the word on social media, share important resources such as the Veterans Crisis Line or register for the Step Up for PTSD Awareness Virtual Walk held in June. You can also support local organizations like K9 Partners for Patriots by becoming a volunteer. To fill out a volunteer form or learn more about the K9 Partners for Patriots program, visit the organization’s website at https://k9partnersforpatriots.com/.