“I don’t know if I would be alive today if it were not for my dog, King,” said Harvey Leary Tuesday.”He means everything to my life and I am grateful for him.”
Leary, who was visiting Fair Oaks Golf Resort and Country Club near San Antonio with friends yesterday, took the time to show some guests some of the tricks ‘King the Lab’ can do. While some high school golfers were thanking Leary for his service in the military, King was busy entertaining. The smile and pride on King’s master was bigger than those watching.
King and Leary were matched carefully by an organization a few years ago while the young veteran was suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and some physical ailments suffered from his tour overseas.
“I recommend anyone that goes through what I did to seek some kind of help,” Leary stated. “Don’t be too proud and ask for help. It will make life worthwhile.”
Leary said he learned about service dogs at a Wounded Warrior event in 2009. He was intrigued, “so I pursued it and never looked back.”
In 2006 a group of disabled military veterans, some who had just returned back to the United States from active service, were in need of someone to help train their dogs, they went to Lori Stevens.
Stevens, a Dallas area dog trainer with over 20 years of professional know-how, was the perfect person to help them out. Soon she founded “Patriot PAWS,” a charity to help those affected by mobility issues to gain back an independent and improved way of living.
Providing and training service dogs for American veterans, or anyone dealing with such emotional and physical disabilities, is the established mission for Patriot PAWS. Stevens describes “watching the relationship between the veteran and service dog blossom into a tightly knit, devoted unit” is very rewarding.
The services performed by an individual dog hinges on on the particular needs of the owner. Ordinary and regimented tasks such as helping with emergencies, recognizing and avoiding Post Traumatic Stress Disorder episodes, picking up and retrieving items, opening and closing doors, pulling wheelchairs, providing bracing to stand, walk, and sit down, and helping with chores, such as laundry; and taking off shoes and socks has an enormous impact on the lives of their owners.
The charity has grown to a staff of 10 and has over 140 volunteers helping to find a match and place specially trained service dogs with veterans in need for free. There are now over 50 puppy raisers, including groups in South Carolina, Texas A&M University and Tyler, Texas who help raise and train the dogs.
Located in Rockwall, just east of Dallas, Patriot PAWS is funded entirely by private donations. According to Stevens, the average cost for training a dog for mobility disabilities is $33,000. They usually select Labrador Retrievers and begin training at six-to-twelve weeks of age. Dogs are fully trained at about 18 months to two years. Labs are particularly good breeds because of their stamina and size. They provide the balance support required to help with mobility assistance and are skilled to retrieve and pick items from the floor.
“Usually, after puppies get their second round of shots they enter the prison training program at one of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice facilities we partner with for basic training,” the Patriot PAWS website states. “Inmates are trained and supervised by Lori Stevens and her professional staff. Upon leaving the prison program the dogs go to one of our large group of volunteer puppy raisers for socialization training in their home.”
Patriot PAWS has a careful policy about how they match a dog with its new master. The dog chooses. A high priority in the process is how the dog and veteran bond. Each veteran will spend time with a select number of the trained dogs. He or she goes through experiments of five ‘cues’’ with each of those dogs to establish and decide on the best bonding between the two
For more information about Patriot PAWS Service Dogs contact them at (972)-772-3282. They are located at 254 Ranch Trail, Rockwall, TX 75032. Their email is email@example.com.