A helping paw for those who served

The nonprofit organization in North Texas is dedicated to provide free training and service dogs to disabled American veterans and others with mobile disabilities

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A non-profit organization in North Texas is making a difference in the lives of many disabled American veterans.

“I did not know how much he was going to change my life though because the dogs we had in the military, their service was totally different than what this is. He's dedicated totally to me. He wakes me up from night terrors or he lays down on me. There's no way to do away with PTSD (Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder), but they help you manage it,” said Brian Reece, a United States Marine Corps veteran who received a service dog through Patriot PAWS.

Patriot PAWS Service Dogs, located in Rockwall, is dedicated to provide free training and service dogs, at no cost, to disabled American veterans and others with mobile disabilities.

“We start from the time the puppies are eight weeks old and sometimes even younger than that, working on just general manners and what not, so they can exist out in the public space and not be disruptive to the public. We’ll work on things like checking in with their handler, so they’re constantly offering eye contact,” said Jackie Fox, director of breeding and training coordinator.

Each service dog learns around 65 different tasks that go from things like retrieving dropped objects, opening handicap doors by targeting the handicap push button. They are also trained to help retrieve adaptive equipment.

After the training process, the service dog is ready to choose a veteran that will also receive special training, so they can create a connection and understand each other. They will both later attend a graduation ceremony.

“Once they have gotten to the point where we go, ‘okay, this dog is ready to graduate,’ we’ll look at our veteran, our veteran pool, and we'll say, ‘okay, these are the veterans we're going to bring in,’ and we always bring in more veterans, more dogs than we have veterans, so if we have four veterans that are going to get their dogs in the graduation, we'll have around eight dogs,” said Terri Stringer, assistant executive director and volunteer coordinator at Patriot PAWS.

Patriot PAWS started when its founder, Lori Stevens, met a group of veterans at the Dallas VA who were attempting to train their own service dogs to mitigate spinal cords injuries.

Stevens then provided dog training courses that later turned into a national nonprofit organization that has changed the lives of many.

The organization located in Rockwall include a training center, veterinary facility, kennels, and even a campus where returning Veterans can stay at no cost.

Brian Reece is a United States Marine Veteran who received a service dog from Patriot PAWS. He also joined as a volunteer to help other veterans.
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