A Warrior’s Best Friend
Here at the Steven A. Cohen Military Family Clinics at Centerstone we are grateful for the many community partners that share our passion for caring for our soldiers, veterans and military families. We are honored to work alongside these organizations as together we ensure our nation’s heroes and their loved ones know they are never alone. To that end, we would be remiss if we did not share their amazing stories of serving. Here is a closer look at one such partner K9s for Warriors.
When the phrase, “dog is man’s best friend” was first uttered, K9s for Warriors didn’t exist, but this simple statement couldn’t be more fitting for the non-profit that pairs four-legged friends with our nation’s heroes.
Founded in 2011 in Ponte Vedra, Florida, just minutes from the beaches of North Florida, the organization unites rescue dogs with post 9/11 Veterans who suffer from Posttraumatic Stress Disorder, Traumatic Brain Injuries or Military Sexual Trauma providing both furry friend and warrior with a companion for healing.
“My son, a veteran K9 police officer, worked as a contractor for the Department of the Army as a bomb dog handler. He served two tours in Iraq and returned home with PTSD,” Shari Duvall, founder of K9s for Warriors said. “This really hit home to our family. After two years of research on canine assistance for PTSD we decided the best way we could help these deserving warriors was to start a non-profit organization to train and give service canines to assist our warriors’ efforts to return to civilian life with dignity and independence.”
The program is unique. Veterans live at the 17,000 square foot training facility, “Camp K9”, where they can enjoy a dining hall, lounge, exercise room and library throughout their stay. Meanwhile, the K9 friends live in a state-of-the-art facility with two kennels, totaling 61 climate-controlled stalls and five enclosed dog parks for training and play. There is even a bone-shaped pool for the dogs to enjoy. They are assessed, trained and then, based on their personality and that of the veteran, they are matched up as friends for life.
“There is no charge for our service; it is our duty, honor and privilege,” Duvall said. “For three weeks our warriors live at our facility where they train and learn to re-enter civilian life. We are a small charity doing huge work and making a difference. Our men and women of our military fought for our tomorrows, so we fight for theirs”
Veterans from all over the country are welcome to apply and although wait times can be extensive, Duvall promises she and K9s for Warriors will keep on serving those in need.
“Our program has been successful, with documented recovery from the debilitating horrors of war, but the need is critical and overwhelming,” Duvall said. “We currently have a year-long waiting list; we must do more. Our plans are to expand our current program to serve more warriors. We will continue our goal of serving our Nation’s Greatest Asset, our Military Men and Women.”
For more information on K9s for Warriors including warrior testimonials and more log on to their website at https://www.k9sforwarriors.org/.