Veterans Get New Leash On Life

Patriot Paws trains service dogs for veterans

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    NEWSLETTERS

    Patriot Paws helps disabled and injured veterans find canine companions to help them through life. (Published Friday, May 25, 2012)

    A Rockwall organization is playing matchmaker with military veterans and man's best friend.

    Patriot Paws paired David Scott, a disabled Navy veteran, with a new companion two months ago.

    An instant connection with Captain gave him a new leash on life.

    "When Captain came along, it was like love at first sight," Scott said.

    Patriot Paws was founded in 2006 as a way to give back to injured heroes.

    "They're out there fighting for our country, and they're coming back with PTSD, and they're coming back with no limbs, and they're coming back, and some of the families even leave them," said Rhonda Lee, Patriot Paws trainer and puppy-raisers coordinator.

    The service dogs are allowed to pick their owner, but more than 50 veterans are still on the list for a companion.

    "He's a great companion, but helps me from getting hurt anymore," Scott said.

    Training takes anywhere from 18 months to two years. Patriot Paws gets the dogs from breeders and rescue groups and then sends them for basic training with female prison inmates.

    The organization formed the partnership with state prisons in 2008.

    Former inmate Rhonda Lee said the program gave her a second chance.

    "It changed my life -- just the responsibilities and being able to give back," she said.

    In the puppy-raisers stage, volunteers keep the dogs at home to get them socialized. The puppies learn basic things such as opening the refrigerator or getting the phone.

    "To be able to give to others with unconditional love is probably the greatest thing," volunteer Debbie Bringhurst said.