Tammy Mutasa, NBC 5 Rockwall Reporter
Rockwall-based Patriot Paws says it has seen donations slow down while demand grows for service dogs for veterans.
A organization that matches wounded veterans with service dogs is seeing a growing demand but is bringing in fewer donations.
Rockwall-based Patriot Paws trains service dogs for disabled veterans all over the country at no cost.
The organization recently celebrated its 50th dog placement but, despite its success, still has 57 veterans on a waiting list.
"The veterans have given so much for us, and it costs so much to travel nowadays," founder Lori Stevens said. "The money has to cover for the veterans' travel, for the veterans to stay here, for the special equipment we use."
It can cost up to $30,000 to train a service dog as they learn various tasks. At Patriot Paws, it takes up to 18 months to two years to train a dog and teach it how to support veterans.
But the downtown in donations isn't slowing Patriot Paws' mission.
"It puts a little spark, a little hope in their heart," Stevens said.
When Stevens started Patriot Paws six years ago, she wanted to give wounded service members a new leash on life.
"These are your brothers, your fathers, your nephews, your cousins -- these are not just a soldier off in a far country; this is part of who we are," she said.
Valerie Fry has been training dogs since joining Patriot Paws' prison program in 2008.
"I am a different person today because of being able to work with animals," she said. "It's unconditional love that they give and, as humans, it's something that we don't truly understand -- unconditional love -- until we have an animal in our life."
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