(ROCKWALL, TX — April 8, 2016) There will not be a dry eye in the house on Friday, April 22 during the Patriot PAWS graduation ceremony, when four disabled veterans receive the service dogs that will change their lives forever. Graduation will be held from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. at the Patriot PAWS facility (254 Ranch Trail), with a graduation reception immediately following sponsored and hosted by Rest Haven Funeral Home.
Patriot PAWS Service Dogs, a Rockwall based 501(c)3 non-profit began in 2006 to help veterans who suffered injuries while protecting our freedom. Since its inception, Patriot PAWS has placed 109 dogs with disabled veterans.
It takes roughly two years and up to $34,000 to train one dog. Patriot PAWS trains dogs to assist veterans with mobility issues, Post-Traumatic Stress, or a combination of both. Dogs are taught behaviors to help veterans to pick up dropped objects, bring them the phone in case of emergency, help them stand by providing a brace for the veteran, check doors and windows to ensure the house is secure, retrieve objects including opening, getting out a bottle and then closing the refrigerator door among the 65 behaviors they learn. They also can sense changes in the veteran’s body chemistry and wake them up from nightmares or simply help to calm them when they become anxious.
On Monday, April 11, four veterans will arrive at the Patriot PAWS training center to begin ten days of training with the dogs. For the first four days, the veterans rotate through and work with all of the dogs that are ready to graduate. The training staff observes and make notes as to the interaction between dogs and veterans.
After four days, Lori Stevens, founder and Executive Director and her training team will determine which dog will be placed with each veteran. According to Stevens, “The dogs really choose their veterans rather than the other way around. Dogs will gravitate to certain veterans and we look for that bonding behavior because that dog is claiming their veteran. Matching Day, when the announcement is made, is always both a happy and tearful event.”
For the remainder of their 10 days in Rockwall, the veterans will work specifically with their dog as the training staff tailors the dogs’ training to meet each individual veteran’s needs.
Finally, the big day arrives on Friday when the veteran/dog teams graduate.
To learn more about Patriot PAWS Service Dogs, visit their website www.patriotpaws.org.
Submitted by Terri Stringer, assistant executive director of Patriot PAWS Service Dogs. Photos by Blue Ribbon News.
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