Save a pet, save a vet: Nonprofit organization trains service dogs to help vets cope with PTSD | Explorer – Tucson, Arizona

Tucson, Arizona 2022-07-01 03:00:00 –

Years ago, when Marine Veteran Dave Ruffs returned from abroad, he was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder.

At the time, he and his wife were talking about keeping a service dog, but there was no organization in southern Arizona to provide this training service. Instead, they went to the Pima Animal Care Center and took home Menifa, a mix of American Standard and American Bulldog.

“We started with one dog and the idea,” Rafus said.

In November 2015, Rafus launched a non-profit Veterans Foundation with the dream of providing service dogs to veterans dealing with PTSD almost or free of charge.

On average, service dogs cost between $ 20,000 and $ 30,000. As a result, organizations rely heavily on grants, donations and volunteers.

“I don’t know too many vets [who] PTSD costs between $ 20,000 and $ 30,000, “Rafus said.

More expensive organizations may utilize breeding programs, but the process of training PTSD service dogs includes boarding costs, medical costs, training costs, and other unexpected costs. Not limited.

“I have the philosophy that there are a lot of unwanted dogs out there. We can use rescue dogs not only to save vets, but also to save pets.”

Adoption has allowed a single Veterans Foundation to significantly reduce costs and match pets with veterans for approximately $ 2,500 to $ 3,000.


Over the past year, Rafus has stepped back from his daily routine and handed over the reins to his friends Brian Latta and Calvin Saylors as co-chairs of the Foundation.

Ratta met Rafus through the Combat Betts Motorcycle Association. It was “easy” for him to join 1VF.

“Only a handful of people are trying to do this, they just bite the surface. We all have higher goals and hope this grows into a much larger organization. increase.”

The Sailors are considered “Cold War veterans” who served in the Air Force. He still belongs to the motorcycle riding club STAR Touring and Riding, where he met outside the biker store Renegade Classics and met Rafus through 1VF.

“We have a veteran with PTSD in our group, so we wanted to make him a service dog,” Sailors said.

Since then, the club has helped organize several motorcycle poker runs, raising about $ 12,000 to $ 15,000 in 1VF.

“Dave saw how much work I was doing and invited my wife and I to the board,” Sailors said.

Since then, Sailors has been the Operations Manager, arranging veteran interviews, dog requests, paperwork, training schedules, tests and more.

Not all dogs can be service dogs

Before finding a suitable dog, you need to look at 50-150 dogs. At a minimum, dogs weigh at least 40 pounds and must have a certain temperament.

“They may not have the stamina or spirit to service their dogs as much as everyone thinks their dog will be the best service dog,” Rafus said.

Even if a veteran already has a dog, the dog must be interviewed to prove eligibility for service.

Excluding the time to train the handler, it takes about 250-350 hours to train a PTSD service dog. The entire process can take 6 to 18 months, depending on team availability and decisions.

It’s a painstaking process. The test begins the moment the dog candidate gets out of the car, and the Sailors said they will check if the handler has full control over the dog.

“We are monitoring automatic sliding doors to see how they interact with people,” Sailors said.

Mole, and sometimes Wal-Mart, could be the ultimate arena for a sufficient number of people, scents and distractions.

PTSD veterans can have very special triggers. Therefore, 1VF pays close attention to the details when testing these dogs.

“Veterans are aware when they are using dogs for the purpose of being there and the dogs feel they have a problem,” Sailors said.

Sometimes even veterans and citizens don’t notice before the dog feels pain.

Dogs know us better than ourselves

Members of 1VF call dogs “teammates”. This is due to the nature of monitoring the handler’s back to ensure that their needs are met and safe.

“That’s what our teammates do, which helps to confuse nightmares and reduce anxiety in high-stress situations,” Rafus said.

Like Latta’s teammate “Cool Hand Luke”, or Luke for short, other teammates can feel where the handler’s emotions are heading.

“They know you better than you know yourself. They have a sixth sense,” Ratta said.

The trio believes that dogs have the ability to pick up the sense of smell and pick up chemical changes in the handler.

“We have this mysterious ability to read human behavior better than the ability of humans to judge human behavior,” Rafus said. Postponing what the dog can pick up. “

Rafus has his own experience that Memphia can lead him out of the situation before a pseudo-seizure attack caused by high anxiety.

“She detected them in advance, I told her to leave me alone, and if she refused to hear, I would go and take my medicine,” Rafus said. ..

It was only one experience for him to ignore her every time he heard it. After that, he experienced five years of stretching without having her seizures.

The influence of a pandemic

Due to the pandemic, it was extremely difficult for several years.

“COVID makes it impossible to see dogs and check their temperament and personality,” says Rafs.

Pre-COVID, 1VF goes to PACC, Humane Society, Green Valley Animal League to find dogs and see if they meet the criteria. If you meet, call a veteran to meet your dog and build a bond.

After that, the world shuts down and limits human interaction.

“I can’t do things like I used to,” Sailors said in an email.

When Rafus found an Echo alternative to Menifa, visitors were not allowed to take the dog for a walk.

“I had to put my hand under the kennel to see how she would react,” Ruffs said.

Intrinsically strong people

Veterans sometimes approached the organization in anticipation of receiving a free dog, unaware that they needed to be interviewed.

Veterans are very strong people in nature, but it’s not their strong suit to convey emotions, Rafus said.

Interviews can be difficult and emotional, depending on what the veteran chooses to share, ranging from therapy sessions to emotional dumps.

“You must be ready to listen without judgment or emotion. They tell you everything from birth to the emotional destruction they faced when they were in the army,” Roughs said. Told.

One of the main questions before the interview asks for an official PTSD diagnosis from a medical professional.

“There are a lot of people [who] Self-diagnosing or their sisters, siblings, cousins, or friends will say, “You’re messed up,” Roughs said. “We also recommend that you get counseling if you haven’t,” Sailors said.

Dogs are just one element of the treatment process, but even talking to “teammates” can be wondering.

Fight to stop veteran suicide

On average, about 17 veterans commit suicide daily, according to the National Veterans Suicide Prevention Report released by the Department of Veterans Affairs in September 2021.

Between 2001 and 2019, unadjusted suicide rates increased by 35.9% among veterans. The numbers were sharpest for veterans aged 18 to 34, with an unadjusted suicide rate of 44.4% per 100,000.

Exposure to trauma from intense combat can affect the risk of suicide, but there is considerable debate among researchers regarding the relationship between PTSD diagnosis and suicide.

PTSD reveals itself in a variety of ways, including extreme combat-related guilt, intrusive thoughts such as reenactment of certain traumatic events, increased awareness, and other symptoms that interfere with daily activities. I can.

A variety of evidence-based treatments are available, including service dogs.

According to a study by a professor of human-animal interaction at Purdue University, veterans affiliated with Service Dogs have fewer symptoms of anger, anxiety, and sleeplessness, and have improved cortisol levels.

That’s why the 1 Veteran Foundation has invested in lifelong veteran training with teammates.

Towards future

Currently, 1VF is looking for corporate, state, or federal sponsors to reach its goals.

The organization envisions a large facility for building kennels and dormitories to train 10-12 dogs at a time, while at the same time placing veteran handlers on the premises. When the dog is about 90% trained, it is ideally assigned to a veteran and finishes the training together.

“Anyone can give a service dog, but if the dog isn’t trained for that particular veteran or isn’t tied to that particular veteran, you have a piece of paper. I have a dog, “Roughs said.

1VF not only pays for adoption from the shelter, but also for initial testing via Inaroad Animal Hospital and for shots, microchipping, contraceptive castration surgery, and contraceptive castration surgery.

Evacuation centers may also price Gaudi, but they will do their best to work with organizations that are willing to donate dogs. Given PACC’s latest critical overcapacity declaration, having a unique location in 1VF would be mutually beneficial.

“That’s why we want to have that facility, a kennel on the premises,” Sailors said.

Having your own space gives you more training opportunities and saves the lives of veterans and pets.

That’s why one veteran foundation is in desperate need of several “corporate angels.”

Save a pet, save a vet: Nonprofit organization trains service dogs to help vets cope with PTSD | Explorer Source link Save a pet, save a vet: Nonprofit organization trains service dogs to help vets cope with PTSD | Explorer

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