May is National Military Appreciation Month, and what better way to celebrate this tribute to those who fight for our freedom than with the graduation of a new Pups4Patriots team: U.S. Army veteran Charles and his Labrador retriever service dog, Shiloh!
Charles was deployed to Iraq and served in the Army from 2005-2009. Since ending his service, the Florida native struggled to adapt back to civilian life with his family, whether it was successfully falling asleep at night or joining his wife in attending a crowded event. When he saw a YouTube video of the Pups4Patriots program while conducting general research into acquiring a service dog, he leapt into action and decided that he was the latest patriot in need of a pup.
On March 23rd, Charles became the latest veteran to graduate from American Humane’s Pups4Patriots program, which provides free, specially trained service dogs for veterans diagnosed with Post-Traumatic Stress or Traumatic Brain Injury.
Once accepted into the program, Charles was paired with a male Labrador Retriever named Shiloh, and the two worked with an American Humane trainer to complete a “boot camp” that was a little furrier than the one he attended in the Army.
The bond was instant for the duo, who trekked back to Florida with a renewed purpose and strengthened friendship.
“We love each other,” Charles said. “When he gets off work, he definitely wants to play. He knows he’s off work. He’s like, ‘All right, it’s fun time.’ When he’s working, it’s like he is in the military. He’s like, ‘All right, this is my job. This is what I do.’ He’s very focused.”
For many brave veterans, the return home from war can be yet another daunting battle. Every day, 184 veterans are diagnosed with PTS and, tragically, 20 take their own lives as a result.
Research shows that specially trained service dogs can reduce stress and anxiety levels, mitigate depression, ease social reintegration, provide comfort and restore confidence to veterans struggling with Post-Traumatic Stress or Traumatic Brain Injury. However, there are many obstacles standing in the way of veterans in need of service dogs, including long waiting lists and exorbitant costs, often upwards of $30,000 per service dog. At American Humane, we harness the healing powers of the human-animal bond by training dogs in need of forever homes and pairing them with veterans who need help – at no cost to the veteran.
“No matter what your limitations are, no matter what your physical or mental issues may be, a service dog will be the best thing for you,” Charles said. “It will help break you out of that shell that you’ve put yourself in over time.”
We are honored to help America’s veterans and we hope our service dog graduates bring their new handlers a lifetime of friendship and joy. Service dogs can make all the difference, so this National Military Appreciation Month, join us in congratulating our newest graduate!