Recently we’ve been honored to help train dogs for the Battle Buddy Foundation, a foundation that helps provide therapy service dogs to US veterans. It was co-founded by Kenny Bass, a disabled Marine Corps combat veteran from the Iraq war, when he was prescribed a service dog for his PTSD symptoms and had to spend $15,000 to purchase his own dog because there was not a program to fund it.
These services dogs provide a constant sense of security for PTSD patients by quite literally having their back. One of the dogs we are currently training, Ranger, sits down next to his trainer, and faces the opposite way, keeping an eye on what she can’t see. They are trained to have constant contact with their owners, as numerous studies have shown that just touching a dog is very therapeutic.
Battle Buddy dogs are also trained to guard the bedroom door at night. If a veteran is having a nightmare, the dog is trained to bark and turn on a light in hopes it will snap the veteran out of a bad dream. Battle Buddies must be able to ride in a car quietly, retrieve things, and be comfortable in all environments.
We originally heard about Battle Buddy when a client mentioned it; soon after, a veteran named Ron Vinson came in to train his own service dog, Sheba. They have made great progress and are both a great joy to work with. He said that Sheba has been helping him with his anxiety attacks.
“As my anxiety rises, so does the anxiety in my dog,” he says. “She teaches me to use calming and quiet techniques, so when I see my dog react, that sends a signal to myself that I need to calm myself down in order to calm the dog down. I never understood that my emotions transferred into the dog’s emotions, so she has helped me tremendously.”
As part of training new service dogs, such as Ranger, the trainers will take them home at night to acclimate them to home life as well as a variety of different environments. Linda has been doing this for Ranger: “This morning I was folding laundry and I had Ranger attached to me. He was right there, either against my leg, or in the guard position,” she says. “Basically, he goes everywhere I go. These dogs are not a protection dog, they are a support dog. And sometimes I think people get them mixed up a little.”
The Battle Buddy Foundation pays for the training fees and cost of the dogs. You can find out more information on www.tbbf.org. Or if you’re local and want to know how you can get involved, give us a call at 269-965-7212.