US Marine Corps veteran Cpl. Bernard Gariety recently returned home after completing the Florida-based, national service dog training program K9s For Warriors. He and his new service dog, Sasha, are hoping to share their experience with the Hendersonville community in order to create PTSD awareness.
K9s For Warriors serves veterans who suffer from Post-traumatic Stress Disability (PTSD), traumatic brain injury (TBI), and/or military sexual trauma (MST). Gariety resided at Camp K9, the nonprofit's state-of-the-art facility, for 21 days during the month of June. He received life-changing instruction on how to utilize a service dog to mitigate the symptoms associated with his military trauma, at no cost to him. Gariety's service dog, who was rescued from an animal shelter, worked with professional dog trainers for months to prepare for the team's pairing.
"I have tried a lot of different treatments for PTSD with little or no improvement," said Gariety. "I'm hoping that Sasha will help me go out in public with less anxiety, so I can do all the things I once loved to do."
Sasha was taught specific commands and tasks that will help Gariety reintegrate into civilian society with dignity and independence. Gariety was matched to the rescue dog based on needs, personality, and lifestyle. Before returning home, he and Sasha graduated alongside ten other warrior-dog teams from across the United States.
Upon completion of the program, they acquired 120 hours of specialized training and certification as a service dog team. Gariety will be able to bring Sasha with him in public places, as specified under the Americans with Disabilities Act.
K9s For Warriors is the nation's largest provider of service dogs for American veterans with PTSD. The organization operates from Ponte Vedra, FL, with the capacity to pair 144 warrior-dog teams per year. The nonprofit has been instrumental in the recovery of hundreds of disabled veterans and incredibly successful at preventing veteran suicide. Shari Duval founded K9s For Warriors to help her son, Brett, recover from his own experience with PTSD.
"K9s for Warriors is saving lives, both human and canine," said Shari Duval, founder, K9s For Warriors. "With a dedicated staff, our program and unwavering mission to serve our warriors with dignity and respect are allowing these brave veterans a new life after battle. Service dogs saves lives, it's as simple as that."
K9s For Warriors utilizes rescue and shelter dogs, saving the time and money that would be required for a full-blown puppy breeding program. The veteran receives a fully-trained, healthy service canine that was saved from a high-kill shelter. Essentially, the dog is saved, then the dog saves the veteran. Eighty-two percent of K9 For Warriors graduates report a decrease in suicidal thoughts after receiving their service dogs. These veterans are also able to return to work, take care of their families, and become caring members of the community.
If you would like to schedule an interview with US Marine Corps veteran Cpl. Bernard Gariety or a K9s For Warriors representative, please contact Samantha Epstein at Samantha@K9sForWarriors.org, or call (904) 686-1956.