Special dogs now care for veterans

- With a virtual epidemic of suicides among veterans, the Department of Defense is helping fund a pilot program to see if specially-trained service dogs can help.

Aquino is one of those dogs. He's an Australian Labradoodle, but he's much more than a dog to Sonny, an Iraq veteran who suffers from PTSD.

"He's a wonderful person -- I mean, a wonderful dog," said Sonny, choking back tears. “He's helped me through the adjustments of becoming a civilian from a soldier."

They're in a program called K9 Partners for Patriots in Hernando County.  Since it started three years ago, nearly 100 veterans have been matched with service dogs, many of which were rescued from shelters.

"I rescued Cherokee when she was a puppy and so I think Cherokee's rescuing me now," offered Becky, a veteran who says her dog Cherokee has changed her life by helping her relax enough to enjoy social situations.

Before she got the service dog, she says, she rarely left her house, except for work.

The dogs can be any breed, but they're tested to see if they can smell the adrenaline that comes when a veteran has a flashback or a nightmare. The dog then draws their attention away from the episode -- doing their job.

"To get them a dog that didn't do that would be providing them with a pet, and they don't need a pet, they need help," explained Mary Pete, founder and CEO of K9 Partners for Patriots.

The 19-week course trains dogs to help with PTSD, traumatic brain injury, and military sexual trauma.

Mary used to lead a K9 search and rescue unit, but then she saw what dogs could do for veterans in crisis.

"We're had them come and sit outside and just cry and somebody had to sit with them for about an hour before we could  get them in here."

But when they do get them in, she said, they see lives change -- as it did with Aquino and Sonny.

"I don't know why I got him, but I'm sure glad I did," continued Sonny.

LINK: For more information, click over to https://k9partnersforpatriots.com/

Up Next:

Up Next

  • Special dogs now care for veterans
  • 13 dogs dead following Pasco home explosion
  • Woman shot after allegedly pointing shotgun at deputies
  • TPD: Suspect shot after attacking officers behind house
  • Man who allegedly shot Kissimmee officers makes first appearance
  • N-word painted on Citrus Co. family's house
  • Search for female TV thief who struck twice, deputies say
  • Local firefighter catches 409-pound grouper
  • Search underway for missing jet skier in Clearwater
  • MOSI hosting eclipse-viewing party