On Tuesday, April 5, sixty women residents of the Brookridge Community− participated in a golf tournament to raise funds for K9 Partners for Patriots (K9PFP). The event raised approximately $1,800 for the local 501C (3) organization that matches up service dogs with veterans suffering from PTSD, traumatic brain injury or sexual abuse. Once the ideal match is made K9PFP, through a sixteen-week program, works with the veterans and helps them to train their dog to become a service dog.
Dennis Holloway, who served in the Navy for twenty years, is a typical client of K9PFP. He came to the organization four years ago and went through the program with Goldie, a seven-year-old Lab mix. Like most of the dogs that come to K9PFP, she’s a rescue. Holloway acquired her when she was three years old. It was “love at first sight” for Goldie, according to Holloway.
“They’ll have people sitting in a circle. Some are stressed out. What they want is for the dog to pick up on that. They want that dog to come up and sniff you. They walked her around. When she came to me, she laid down on top of me.” Holloway chokes up as he relates the story.
“They eventually got her off me. They walked her around the circle again and when she got back to me, she laid on top of me again.”
It’s been a learning process for the two of them. Holloway has two other dogs at home−a Jack Russell and a Belgian. All the dogs get along.
“Even when she’s at the house and playing with the other dogs, she’s still working. If I go into another room, she’ll follow me. She’s always at my side. It’s a very comforting thing to see and feel. You feel that unconditional love.”
It can be said that most service dogs have the qualities innately to perform these duties. The sixteen-week program that the dogs and the veterans go through just fine-tunes these qualities.
“Dogs sense stress or illness in their owners. Most of these dogs have that sense within them. They can’t really be trained to have that sense. The qualities are that they won’t spook when they hear a noise. They’ll behave in public, no barking or growling.”
However, both the veterans and the dogs are vetted. The program is free of charge for all the participants. Approximately 80% of the dogs either don’t make it through the initial vetting process, don’t make it through the training program, or develop a problem after they’ve been with their owner for a while. This could be a medical issue or a behavioral issue. If this happens, the veteran will be matched with another service dog and keep the other as a pet or they’ll find a home for the dog.
Service dogs are lifelines for these veterans. Transition from military to civilian life is often very difficult. Some of the veterans won’t go anywhere. They can’t handle crowds, so they just stay home.
“Many that I knew, when they got out they committed suicide. I used to wonder why. A couple of years later, I’m thinking the same thing. This program helps us to get out and eventually even get out without the dog. The dogs are actually medical devices. They’re better than pills,” Holloway remarks.
Service dogs can help with all kinds of conditions, such as seizures, low blood sugar, pain and nightmares. They can sense those issues. When the dog is wearing her vest, she’s “on duty” and knows this. When the vest comes off, you’ve got a regular dog−a pet.
“Goldie loves people, but she’s still paying attention to me. When we’re out and a person or another dog – even an aggressive one–comes up to her, she doesn’t react,” says Holloway.
Because there’s a waiting list of veterans needing service dogs, there’s always a demand for dogs and for people to foster them for two weeks or more until they’re matched up with the veteran. The purpose of this is to get the dog settled and, in the case of a rescue dog, re-introduced into society. All that K9PFP asks is that the foster “parent” give the dog attention, love her and teach her basic manners. It doesn’t cost anything. The organization takes care of food, supplies and medical care for the dog. Holloway remarks that shelter dogs seem to be more grateful and more dedicated and devoted to their veterans.
Because K9 Partners for Patriots is a nonprofit organization, they rely primarily on grants, donations and fund-raisers, like this golf tournament. Because salaries and overhead are covered by government funds, all other monies go straight into the program. K9 Partners for Patriots welcomes volunteers to help out in the office and perform other duties.
Team #5, comprised of Karen Lays, Mary Sassone, Karen Hansen and Shirley Grob, placed third in the tournament. Team #17, made up of Betty Cormier, Paulette Caldwell, Carol Petsch and Edie Helfers, came in second place. The winners of the tournament were Team #2−Cathy Rose, Patty Fieber, Mary Babcock and Ingrid Early.
Teresa Glassmyer, Terry Hamilton, Chris Robart, Judy Miller and Jane Bedard formed the committee that put on the tournament. It took about six weeks to plan and turned out to be both an enjoyable and worthwhile event.
To learn more about K9 Partners for Patriots call 352-397-5306 or log onto: