According to the Department of Veterans Affairs, 20 former service members commit suicide every day. For veterans of conflict, service dogs can be a practical way to help them overcome stresses as they transition back into everyday life.
A new local non-profit has been established to provide returning service members with these working animals.
In addition to placing dogs with veterans diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder, Mid-South Canines trains, boards, feeds and provides health care for the dog.
It was founded in October of last year by veteran Ira Smith and Rebecca Wilson, owner of Paw Paw’s Pets.
MSCV's goal is to rescue, train, and place 22 dogs per year with U.S. veterans with PTSD.
“We believe that we are giving back in training dogs to become service dogs to veterans who have served our country worldwide,” said Wilson.
The organization also benefits the dogs. Some are spared euthanasia from local animal shelters. Others come from local rescue groups. Those chosen all lead a higher quality of life.
After a dog is rescued, Smith evaluates the lucky pup with a set of criteria to see if they are potential service dogs. It takes about six months to train the animal.
“Whenever possible, Becky wants dogs off the urgent list so we are saving a dog from being euthanized,” said Anne Forbus, treasurer for Mid-South Canines for Veterans.
Just getting off the ground, Mid-South Canines has functioned as a word-of-mouth operation.
So far, they have place one dog, Cassie, after her veteran expressed interest to MSCV.
“She immediately bonded with him,” said Forbus.
Cassie accompanies him to the VA and just about everywhere else. She makes him feel more comfortable when faced with social encounters.
“The symbiotic relationship between veteran and service dog plays an integral part in saving both dog and veteran,” said Wilson
Two more dogs have been trained and awaiting placement. When they are in their new homes new recruits will be brought in.
Wilson trains dogs both for Paw Paw's and MSCV.
As president of MSC, Wilson works to bring awareness to the life-saving possibilities of service dogs. Funding comes from donations by local businesses and individuals.
MSCV recently received a $5,000 grant from the Granger Foundation. It will go to offsetting the costs and healthcare and training of the dogs.
MSCV has also partnered with Utopia Animal Hospital, which brings down the costs of care for the rescued pups.
On tap for Saturday, September 23 is the inaugural Bark on Broad 5-K9 event. Wilson hopes the event will generate funds bring awareness to an organization that is saving the lives of both service members and canines.