“My dog saved my life” is a phrase heard every day from veterans.
Millions of post 9/11 warriors arrived home from the Iraq and Afghanistan fronts suffering from physical wounds like blindness, and invisible disabilities like post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and traumatic brain injury. Marital troubles, depression and reclusiveness are common after-effects of multiple deployments, and too often result in suicide. But life can definitely get better through bonding with a perfectly-matched, specially trained dog.
At Southeastern Guide Dogs in Palmetto, Florida, qualified veterans are provided with guide dogs, service dogs and other gifted canines at no cost, including facility therapy dogs that offer comfort at military healthcare facilities; emotional support dogs and “Gold Star Family” dogs that lessen the pain for military families that have lost a loved one.
While some national statistics count an average of 22 suicides a day among veterans, those matched with Southeastern Guide Dogs’ canines are enjoying a much different outcome. “Our dogs improve the lives of our veterans every day with their unconditional love, acceptance and support,” says Kim Hyde, manager of one of the organization’s service dog training teams. “Our specially trained dogs are opening doors and creating bridges of communication that allow our veterans to live more fulfilling lives with family and friends and even to return to school or work again. The dogs restore independence and keep veterans grounded, helping to reduce and even eliminate flashbacks and panic attacks as well as the need for medications. Our dogs significantly reduce the risk of suicide.”
Taya Kyle, wife of the late Navy SEAL Chris Kyle of “American Sniper” fame, knows firsthand what an emotional support dog can do. After the murder of her husband in 2013, Taya soldiered on, speaking nationally on behalf of military families and raising funds for their support, all while feeling increasingly broken and vulnerable. Taya now relies on Norman, a lovable golden retriever from Southeastern Guide Dogs that has enabled her and her family to cope with their grief and fears.
As Taya Kyle knows, veterans leave home and family to lay it all on the line, all in the line of duty. They often return bearing invisible scars, and that’s where remarkable guide, service and companion dogs step in, transforming lives.
If you or a veteran you know might benefit from a guide dog, service dog or therapy dog at no charge, or to support programs for veterans, contact Southeastern Guide Dogs at 800-944-3647. Or apply online at GuideDogs.org.
About Southeastern Guide Dogs
Southeastern Guide Dogs has the distinction of being dually accredited by the two premier, global accreditation bodies: the International Guide Dog Federation (IGDF) and Assistance Dogs International (ADI). Founded in 1982 in Palmetto, Florida, the organization employs the latest in canine development and behavior research to create and nurture partnerships between visually impaired individuals and extraordinary guide dogs. Southeastern Guide Dogs serves more than 450 graduates across the U.S. and continues to place more than 100 dogs each year into careers benefiting people with visual impairments and veterans. The nonprofit provides all of its services free of charge and receives no government funding. www.GuideDogs.org