Marine Corps and Army veteran Ricardo Reyes recently returned home to Irmo with his new service dog, Rucker. The shelter-turned-service dog was trained to helped Ricardo manage symptoms of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder that resulted from his military service.
On why he applied to K9s For Warriors, Ricardo said, “I need this to work for me to have a battle buddy. I needed a better handle on my disabilities to get through life and at home. I was in the MP unit with which I deployed and came back all messed up.”
Upon arrival to K9s For Warriors, Ricardo was paired with Rucker, who had already completed formal service canine training in the months prior. Along with the other members of their class, the team trained in public every day, received instruction on matters of service dog access, dog health care and more, and established a bond that would facilitate Ricardo’s healing from the invisible wounds of war.
K9s For Warriors CEO, Rory Diamond, explained why the program is critical.
“There’s an epidemic of veteran suicide in our country. Service dogs are a proven method of alleviating the debilitating symptoms of PTSD – like suicidal ideation. They not only get our veterans back on their feet, but they also help them regain a sense of normalcy in their lives. Most veterans with PTSD think they’ve lost that forever.”
K9s For Warriors is a national nonprofit that takes eligible shelter dogs and trains them to be service dogs to mitigate symptoms of PTSD, Traumatic Brian Injury, and/or Military Sexual Trauma for post-9/11 service members and veterans. It operates from two facilities in North Florida that perform the work of obtaining and training the canines, pairing them with an incoming veteran, then training the veteran and canine pair together. After three weeks with his or her new service dog, the veteran has learned how to reintegrate into society and, most importantly, reduce suicidal ideation.
Find more information at www.k9sforwarriors.org.