It is often said, “Dogs are man’s best friend.”
This is particularly found true for many returning wounded American military veterans who have experienced terrifying physical and mental trauma in combat or in service to the nation.
Sandy Dee, a U.S. Army, medically retired, veteran, from Hemet is one of those who have seen what Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder does to this group of people and how canine companions can often help. Her response is forming the nonprofit group named “A Pawsability 4 Veterans.”
Dee, along with her service dog, London, and two trainers – through A Pawsability 4 Veterans and its new training facility located at Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 1891 in San Jacinto – is offering military veterans service dog training at the post.
London, a Magyar Vizula, adopted by Dee after the deaths of her mother and father in San Diego, continues to be in training at the A Pawsability 4 Veterans training facility at 1891 S. Santa Fe Ave., San Jacinto.
Dee said she adopted London to become a service dog for her mother, but her mother died before he was trained. She learned that it was not easy to train London to become a service dog, but once he began to learn, she saw the “pawsability” that she and London might be able to help other wounded and disabled veterans with a nonprofit organization. Knowing it would be difficult to form such a nonprofit, “I ask God what should I do,” she said.
Her answer came after collaborating and sharing her idea with the nonprofit group called 4Paws 4Patriots in Temecula, Canine Support Teams and contacts she had at the San Jacinto VFW. She and her two trainers formed Pawsability 4 Veterans as a nonprofit organization to help with service dog training.
Offering A Pawsability 4 Veterans a home was VFW Post 1891 Commander Donovan Walker. The post and its members hosted the traveling American Veterans Traveling Tribute Wall and newer Global Wall of Terror Wall of Remembrance in San Jacinto on Memorial Day weekend. The caretaker of the traveling wall, Marine Corps Veteran Derek Hendershot, has received his service dog, Witness, through the VFW and A Pawsability 4 Veterans.
Dee said donations would soon be coming in and Home Depot stepped up with a grant that helped create the training facility that offers service dog training. The facility has a series of structures that will help the service dogs in training do the work needed to assist their veteran or disabled master, including an artificial grass area for regular training. Dee said any kind of dog may receive the training, although some breeds are more viable for special service duties depending on the client’s disability.
Dee said she hoped that A Pawsability 4 Veterans will soon become a national program. The local A Pawsability 4 Veterans already has conducted hikes for veterans, painting classes that help with stress and even golf lessons offered through the Golden Era Golf Course. Donations and fees for the programs are used for the operation of the nonprofit.
“One day I want A Pawsability 4 Veterans to be as big as Komen (Race for the Cure),” she said with a smile.
Meanwhile, Dee said she is offering the training facility to the canine units of the local California Highway Patrol, fire and police departments, disaster and emergency medical services under the auspices of Pawsability 4Veterans.
For more information about A Pawsability 4 Veterans see www.apawsability4veterans.org or call Dee at (562) 719-6826. Donations may be sent to A Pawsability 4 Veterans at 530 West Devonshire Ave. Space 51, in Hemet, CA 92543.