HERNANDO COUNTY, Fla. — This month President Trump signed an executive order aiming to decrease veteran suicides. But one local organization is already making big strides in helping veterans suffering from PTSD.
The K9 Partners for Patriots program is celebrating their 200th pairing of rescue dogs and veterans.
"It progressively got worse and it got to a point where I was just not functioning," said Miguel, a marine vet who suffers from PTSD.
Travis, Miguel and Cindy are all veterans in the K9 Partners for Patriots program. A policy of the program is that last names remain confidential.
"As a veteran, they teach you how to go to war, that’s the only thing they teach you how to do. They don’t teach you how to come home and re-acclimate back into the real world," said Travis, an army veteran.
All three suffer from PTSD.
"I was going in and out of depression. Started getting scared to leave the house," said Travis.
The three veterans say they all entered the K9 Partners for Patriots program to get a service dog. But what they got was so much more.
"It makes you feel so comfortable. You feel like family. It gives you purpose," said Cindy.
The dogs, rescued from shelters, can smell adrenaline and are trained by their veteran companion over 19 weeks of classes.
"He helps me navigate social situation and he wakes me up from nightmares," said Miguel about his service dog Max.
"He really gives me the support and makes me feel safe," said Cindy about her dog, Baby. She is now able to go out in public for the first time in years without getting anxious.
The program impacted them so much that now all three are working to become trainers so they can help other veterans.
"They don’t understand how much hope is at the end of that tunnel. K9 Partners for Patriots is the light at the end of the tunnel for us. That’s the hope," said Travis.
K9 Partners for Patriots is a free program for veterans. For more information visit k9partnersforpatriots.com.
They are a nonprofit donation based organization. They are in need of donations of gas cards for veterans who drive long distances for the training and need fosters who are interested in helping keep the dogs before they are paired with a veteran.
Visit their website to learn more about how you can help k9partnersforpatriots.com.