A dog food company has launched a campaign to pair more veterans in need with service dogs that could radically help alter their quality of life.
The 3rd annual Service Dog Salute campaign, which is run by Purina Dog Chow, donates to two organizations that train and gift service dogs to veterans free of charge.
As many as half a million U.S. veterans suffer from diagnosed post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Yet, the prohibitive cost of training service dogs means that fewer than 1 percent of veterans in need are in a position to fund one, Purina details in a press release.
That’s why the market leaders in dog food are running Service Dog Salute for the third year, in collaboration with the Tony LaRussa Animal Rescue Foundation (ARF)’s Pets & Vets program, and Got Your Six Support Dogs.
ARF, according to its website, rehabilitates and trains rescue dogs into service dogs that can serve veterans suffering from PTSD, traumatic brain injuries, and more, in turn giving both the dogs and their deserving owners a new lease on life.
Service dogs can help veterans in a number of ways, say the experts at Purina, including using body weight to help calm them during panic attacks, waking them from night terrors, reminding them to take medication, or alerting them to potential triggers or threats in their immediate environment.
“[I]t can cost over $20,000 on average to train one service dog,” military advocate and campaign supporter Bobby Bones explained. “When our veterans come home from service, they may not be equipped to live their life without these dogs. I’m honored to be a part of a program that is helping more veterans get the service dogs they need.”
Stories of impactful pairings between veterans and service dogs can testify to the success of the Service Dog Salute campaign.
U.S. Army Staff Sergeant Leon Alexander was introduced to his service dog, Bob, in 2017. “My PTSD became an aspersion that was cast over my relationship with my family, which made it hard for me to talk about my military career with my children,” Alexander, who met his pup through Got Your Six, told People.
Just three days after welcoming Bob into his life, Alexander met his children for dinner. The dog became a conversation point and encouraged Alexander to talk openly to his kids about PTSD.
“I was in the military for over 15 years and I was never able to talk to my children,” the father admitted. “I had Bob for a little over 36 hours, and within a two-hour dinner conversation, I was able to open up and have an amicable conversation with my children.”
Former U.S. Army Captain Paul Sherman Whitmer also had a life-changing experience with Got Your Six. His service dog, also named Paul, allowed him to conquer a fear of leaving his home alone.
“[A]s a matter of fact I enjoy taking Paul with me wherever I go,” Whitmer explained. “[H]is presence by my side is just a given. […] Going somewhere without him is almost unimaginable. We have not been apart since pairing, never.”
September is National Service Dog Awareness Month, and the general public can help. Every bag of specially marked Purina Dog Chow bought during the campaign will result in a split donation being sent to ARF and Got Your Six, up to a grand total of $100,000.
Service Dog Salute’s 2020 campaign will run until Thanksgiving.
Purina is also lobbying Congress to support the PAWS for Veterans Therapy Act, a federal legislation that would help provide more training and service dogs for veterans. At the time of writing, the bill is awaiting approval by the Senate.
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