WBZ Cares: Service Dogs For Veterans

BOSTON (WBZ-AM) -- Each month, “WBZ Cares” highlights a worthy non-profit organization and tells the story of what that organization does for the community. This month WBZ is profiling Operation Delta Dog whose mission is to rescue shelter dogs and train them to work as service dogs for disabled veterans who suffer from Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), and related challenges.

Operation Delta Dog, a non-profit based in Hollis, New Hampshire, pairs veterans suffering from PTSD, Traumatic Brain Injury, and Military Sexual Trauma with shelter dogs that are trained to be service dogs.

“I struggled when I came back from the military,” revealed Matthew Gates, a service dog recipient.

Matthew Gates was 18 when he enlisted in the Marines. Now, 6 years later and out of the service, he suffers from PTSD.

“Some of us have been through some very, very bad violence or witnessed the loss of people who we normally do care about emotionally, but, in our kind of culture we are semi-responsible for, you know, and ah, so it hits us hard,” said Gates.

Gates says he can't explain exactly how it works, but paired service dog Willow, a chocolate lab, he's now better able to manage his PTSD, including his anxiety and panic attacks.

“It's actually fantastic that we have the ability to work with the service animals and be able to be grounded to the point we’re able to go out to the store, go out to large crowded areas and actually feel a sense of peace,” Gates outlined.

It’s completely free to the veterans. They don’t pay for anything. But Delta Dog Development Officer Charlotte Troddyn says the dogs undergo about 14 months of expensive, specialized training.

“It takes so much time and effort to make sure that the veteran and the dog are trained to a point at which it becomes life-changing. There's a lot of resources that go into making sure that our service dogs and our veteran team are fully equipped to take on the world,” explained Troddyn.

The non-profit’s biggest fundraiser “Walk and Wag for Veterans” is scheduled for the Saturday before Veteran’s Day. The goal is to raise $120,000 dollars from walkers collecting pledges.

 “Which would be great because that would help us fund over 5 incoming veteran dog teams,” said Troddyn.

The 6th Annual Walk and Wag is Saturday, November 9th at Great Brook Farm State Park in Carlisle, Massachusetts. Go to WalkandWagforVeterans.com to sign up.

WBZ NewsRadio1030's Shari Small Reports

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