Charles and his service dog, Shiloh.
Photo by American Humane
The Pups4Patriots program, an initiative of South Florida nonprofit American Humane, has set a goal to help military veterans transition to life back at home as civilians dealing with physical and mental health challenges.
The program trains rescue dogs to be service dogs and pairs them with veterans at zero cost to the veterans.
Through the power of the human-animal bond, service dogs have renewed the lives of some veterans, giving them a new sense of purpose and outlook. These relationships have reduced stress and anxiety for the veterans, restored confidence to those who have suffered brain injuries and helped with reintegration into social settings for those with post-traumatic stress.
Pups4Patriots is working to standardize training nationally and establish protocols and best practices to protect the rights of veterans and their four-legged family members in locations such as restaurants and airliners.
Seventy veteran-dog teams have graduated from the program. The most recent pair is Charles and Shiloh.
“My wife likes to go more places than I’m comfortable going, so being able to do more stuff with her will be a great thing,” Charles said. “Most of the time I tell her to find a friend and just go because I’m not much for going to places where there are crowds and lots of people.”
Charles spent four years deployed in Iraq and has struggled to adapt back to civilian life with his family in Florida. Simple tasks, such as sleeping at night and attending crowded events with his wife, have been major challenges for him.
After seeing a YouTube video about Pups4Patriots, Charles applied and began the program shortly after. He was paired with Shiloh, a male Labrador retriever, and the two completed a collaborative boot camp, alongside an American Humane trainer, where they got to know each other, built trust and learned each other’s behaviors and needs.
Charles told American Humane, “No matter what your limitations are, no matter what your physical or mental issues may be, a service dog will be the best thing for you. It will help break you out of that shell that you’ve put yourself in over time.”
To donate to Pups4Patriots, visit www.americanhumane.org/get-involved.