Ever notice when you’re out at the gym, or the grocery store, or the train station,places you least expect to see an animal, you see a person walking with a dog? Well, your eyes aren’t deceiving you and these are not just any ordinary canines, they are actually incredibly trained service dogs. You likely won’t see the effects of what they do or how they help out their owner, but there is more to them than meets the eye. Service dogs assist veterans with different needs in a variety of ways and it is something that, as a veteran supporting community, we should talk about. They aren’t just there to keep company, but to help handlers with disabilities so that they can lead more independent lives.
The Best of the Best
Service dogs can help in the range of physical, sensory, psychiatric, intellectual, or even mental disabilities that a veteran can have. About 50% – 70% of dogs picked fail through service training. Dogs must be above average when it comes to their abilities, and this is only the very beginning of determining a worthy service dog. Service dogs in training must be able to exhibit a desire to work, a calm demeanor, high intelligence, and have a friendly and loving disposition. So, it takes more than a good nose to be a service dog.
Veteran Toye Hickman is a service dog owner who shared her testimony about how her life has changed since she first got her service dog, as she deals with post-traumatic stress disorder, depression and anxiety. “He understands when my anxiety is going up. He’ll follow me around, he’ll pester me to get up and do something,” Hickman said. “If I’m having a down day, even though he’s a very active dog, he’ll lay right beside me and won’t leave my side.” Toye says her life changed when her service dog Bake entered it just two years ago.
Purple Heart Testimony / Clay the Service Dog
The Purple Heart Foundation believes that service dogs can truly help veterans, and that is why we offer this program to veterans. Watch retired veteran Jim Mirick, in his own words, detailing how much his service dog has helped him. He states, “He and I have such a bond together, he’s very tight with me, he’s irreplaceable to me.” Speaking of service dogs, our newest member to the Purple Heart Foundation family is Clay the service puppy, named after Purple Heart Recipient and former Purple Heart Foundation board member, Clayton Jones who passed in 2021. Clay is in the early stages of his nearly twenty four month training program, and from what we can tell he is determined and working hard through the process as a young student.
When the time comes, Clay will be matched with an honorably discharged veteran and their family, hopefully providing invaluable support while making a significant difference in a veterans’ life. Giving new meaning to the phrase Man’s best friend, our returning heroes, with their new companions, will be able to return towards the path of independence. Click here to learn more about our service dog program.