K9s for Warriors
ABT is committed to giving back to the communities that have given to us and that have helped make us successful. One way we do this is by serving as volunteers for K9s for Warriors right here in Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida.
Founded in March 2011, K9s for Warriors is a non-profit organization dedicated to providing service dogs to soldiers who served our country after 9/11, have returned home, and now suffer from PTSD and other military-related disorders such as traumatic brain injuries and military sexual trauma.
K9s for Warriors rescues dogs from high-kill shelters, adopts them from rescue organizations, and adopts them from private donors. Skilled certified canine handlers and trainers at the K9s for Warriors facility then train the dogs in basic behavior modification, obedience and manners, and service-dog and public-access skills.
K9s for Warriors focuses on the healing of the warrior and his or her integration back into civilian life with the dignity and respect the warrior deserves. K9s for Warriors offers monthly classes and can accommodate up to 16 warriors each month. In addition to housing, home-cooked meals, and a service dog, all warriors get veterinary care, equipment such a service-dog vest and leash, educational material, 120 hours of training with their service dog, and full certification – all at absolutely no charge to the warrior.
Warriors complete an online application, which is followed by a short review process. Then the warriors go to Ponte Vedra beach for 3 weeks where they stay at the 17,000 square foot training facility, which has a full kitchen that provides home-cooked meals, a dining hall, lounges, an exercise room, and a library.
Certified canine trainers at the facility then match the skills of a dog to the needs of the warrior, and the warriors bond with their new dog in “Camp K9,” which has 27 climate-controlled stalls for the dogs, five enclosed dog parks where dogs train and play, and a bone-shaped swimming pool and fountain for the dogs.
Research indisputably shows that service dogs are an invaluable recovery tool for soldiers returning home with PTSD, traumatic brain injuries, and military sexual trauma. And what these dogs are trained to do to help these soldiers, right here at the K9s for Warriors “Camp K9,” is astonishing.
Service men and women suffering from PTSD experience the intensity of battle over and over again long after they are out of combat situations and back home. They suffer psychological disabilities such as severe anxiety, depression, social isolation, and nightmares. They may be over-protective and over-reactive. They often over-respond to sudden noises and other things that startle them. Pets often sense this intense stress, but a trained service dog actually responds to and mitigates these episodes. For example, a service dog may lick or paw his companion to interrupt a high-anxiety episode. A service dog may “watch his companion’s back” by sitting and facing away from the warrior; a service dog may stop a person, who precipitates anxiety in the warrior, from advancing toward the warrior by standing sideways and blocking the person’s advance; a service dog may run around a corner in front of the warrior to “recon” a stressful situation; service dogs often remind warriors to take their medicine, check rooms before warriors enter, and nudge the warrior awake during a nightmare. Each dog is trained to respond to a warrior’s specific and particular needs.
One way that we support all warriors is by offering a 20% discount on our services to all military personnel, both active service members and veterans.