AUSTIN, Tx. - Did you know that the Veterans Administration does not provide service dogs to veterans with post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) or physical ailments? Fortunately, there are organizations like Patriot Paws, a nonprofit that trains dogs to help veterans in need-- at no cost to the vets.
Lori Stevens, whose father was a veteran, started this amazing organization when her son was heading for his first deployment. In 2005, she met a group of veterans who were attempting to train their own service dogs and needed help. That's when she decided to take action.
"You know, we think of veterans, you see them out riding motorcycles or doing something. You'll never believe how many are locked in their houses that won't come out. Those are the ones that called or emailed crying for our help each and every day," Stevens explained.
Now, over 100 veterans are in line to get their very own companion.
"There are truly nights that I go home and I worry about a veteran," Stevens said, "all night long, 'What am I gonna do about this guy?' We have a long waiting list."
While they wait, the Veteran Outreach Coordinators check in with them, offer to have them volunteer at the facility with the pups, or just invite them to events. So, the organization does more than provide service animals.
"Sometimes the difference between someone being barricaded in suicide is somebody saying, 'We care.'"
After the pups are fully trained, the vets come to the facility for 10 days for the graduation before heading home with their new best friend. That is when the healing truly begins.
FOX 7 Austin has partnered with Patriot Paws by helping to socialize and train a service dog named Tommy for the next four months. To follow along in Tommy's training adventure, visit the Fox 7 Patriot PAWS page.