When Lori Stevens began training dogs over twenty years ago, she never imagined her work and her dogs would help America’s heroes.
“The veterans are asking for this,” said Stevens. “There’s an amazing need for this when they’re all coming back with post-traumatic stress or physical disabilities.”
After a group of veterans told Stevens the need for service dogs was growing, she started Patriot PAWS in 2006.
“They asked for my help and when I met them I couldn’t resist,” said Stevens. “The next thing I knew I had my own non-profit training for veterans.”
Most Patriot PAWS dogs begin the program as puppies, and continue their training for eight to twenty four months.
“Each one of our dogs is customized for each individual soldier and their special needs,” said Stevens.
The dogs are trained to assist with daily tasks like picking up dropped items, doing laundry, opening and closing doors and retrieving. Veteran Richard Heath struggles with his balance but his dog, Wendy, is there to help.
“She actually has jumped up and blocked my fall and eased me down on her or to the floor on several occasions now,” said Heath.
Patriot PAWS studied Heath’s personal needs before any dogs were introduced to him. But Stevens says the final decision isn’t up to her.
“I believe that if the dogs pick their owners then they’re more likely to pick up on their post-traumatic stress and the physical disabilities or chemistry changes in their body and able to help them in that way,” said Ste
And in July of 2011, Wendy could sense something was wrong. Heath had suffered a stroke, and Wendy helped save his life.
“I couldn’t tell her to get the phone because I couldn’t speak I couldn’t move,” said Heath. “She went and got the telephone and put it in my hand. She is my life saver. She is my best friend.”
Heath is just one of many veterans the Patriot PAWS program and others like it has helped. Stevens says she wants people to understand we can’t forget our soldiers when they come home.
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