By: Linda White-Francis
In 2014, Mary Peter founded K9 Partners for Patriots. Her creative and far-reaching vision has led her to believe “she was meant to do this.” Peter, more than just a visionary, realizes that the joys of bringing her idea to fruition have brought her something more valuable than words of praise. It has brought her peace of mind through the peace of mind her program brings to its members. Peter has been training dogs on a professional level since 1987. Her devotion and expertise in the law enforcement realm, and the veterinarian community, has acted as the catalyst for her eventual life’s work.
Peter graduated with a Certified Master Dog Trainer degree from National K9 in Columbus, Ohio. She holds many notable credentials in the fields of Basic and Advanced Obedience; Personal Protection; Police Attack; Tracking; Retrieval; and Utility and Disability Training. One of her specialties is Behavior Modification for the problem dog.
In 1989 Peter opened Stillwater Dog Training Inc. in Brooksville, Florida. It has earned her, through hard work, dedication, and devotion, respect, and recognition for being one of the most successful and rewarding business owners in the area. Her talent for teaching the public how to train their own dogs in basic and advanced level obedience has brought Peter’s and her patron’s rewards beyond measure.
In 2013 Peters’ brainstorm began to take on another form of need after she noticed some of the veterans who were enrolling in her once a week, 90-minute classes at Stillwater Dog Training weren’t taking it as seriously as she would have liked, and so she went about finding out why.
Basically, the wounded warriors were hoping the classes might be more beneficial to their plight. They came looking for answers and solutions to their particular war-wounded bodies and souls but weren’t really feeling it. “They had been told a dog might possibly assist them with their Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder,” Peter said. “At first I noticed these students weren’t taking full advantage of my classes. They were skipping or dropping out altogether. It was then I realized there was an urgent need for a more defined service dog training program for people with PTSD, TBI, and MST. So I developed a new program specifically meant for these military heroes, and their dogs. And, that’s where it all began.”
Peter then realized she had to develop a method tailor-made for veterans only and that is how K9 Partners for Patriots came about. The innovative program she came up with is a 501 (C) (3), non-profit mission for helping eliminate veteran’s suicides. The organization provides the opportunity for the men and women involved in her program to meet and share their stories, and more decipher the individual pain and suffering they are experiencing, while they train and manage their very own service dog. The program is free and is a 24-week course which readies the dog and its new owner for a happy life together. All necessary training equipment needed for the new service dogs are provided free of charge. “Our veterans find trust and understanding in our nonjudgmental family atmosphere,” said Peter.
“Our dogs are adopted from homeless shelters, kill shelters and animal rescue organizations whenever possible,” said Jenn Licata, Strategic Partnerships Manager, and Secretary of the Board of Directors. “We focus on action, innovation, and commitment to collaboration, and a passion to educate. Our dogs must be stable and confident (no shy dogs). The perfect dog is happy go lucky, dog friendly, with no aggression. Of course they must be up to date on all their vaccinations, heartworm negative, all preferably spayed/neutered. We train all sizes from Chihuahua to Great Danes. Any dog that would enable a Vet to go about everyday life is fine with us.”
The dogs are rigorously trained to give Vets emotional, mental, and physical support, helping them to regain their confidence and independence. They rescue and save 60-70 dogs a year. “In other words: another chance at life for the dog and for the Vet” Licata continued. “If anyone is interested in this worthwhile endeavor-foster families are always needed. Generally the dog is with the foster family only 2-4 weeks.” Get in touch with Licata at 352-345-4203, or 15322 Aviation Loop Dr., Brooksville, Florida, 34602.
“Unfortunately, due to Covid-19, training had to be handled in a virtual manner,” Licata pointed out. “Ironically, the pandemic has forced our Vets into isolation and that can be such a hardship to some. Overall, it has been successful though, it has been more of a mission now, than ever before.”
November 14, 2020, K9 Partners for Patriots, will be hosting their 5K run fundraiser virtually.
“The race can be run or walked independently from any location- the registrant chooses. You can run, jog, or walk on the road, trail, treadmill, gym or track. You get to run your own race at your own pace, and you time yourself,” Licata said.
Since Covid-19 has sidelined many events where large groups would gather, K9 Partners for Patriots feels this is the safest way to host their annual 5K race. An additional benefit for participation in a virtual race is: there are no parking problems, no long port-a-potty lines, and no nervous pre-race chats with other runners.
K9 Partners for Patriots hours of operation are Monday-Thursday 8:30AM-3PM, Friday-Sunday Closed. 352-397-5306.
Veterans Crisis Line is 1-800-273-8255.