Veterans train service dogs as therapy in Hendersonville

HENDERSONVILLE, NC (FOX Carolina) – Across western North Carolina, the dogs will be ready to serve someone in need, all thanks to a few men and women who served.

Military veterans train the dogs. And during the process, they also learn coping mechanisms.

Nicholas Baird is a Navy Veteran

“It started as a volunteer opportunity, but quickly turned into more; especially when I met Danny,” Baird said.

Baird saw Danny’s face at the Veterans Healing Farm in Hendersonville, and the rest is history. He helped train Danny, as well as other dogs in their program.

“Before that, there was a lot of tension in my life,” Baird said, “Coming into these sessions was like therapy.”

For weeks, Baird sat with his pup, rewarding him for his good behavior; such as not reacting to loud noises.

The dogs are from Warrior Canine Connection of Asheville who provide the dogs. Program manager and service dog training instructor Amy Guidash says it’s their basic form of training.

“They learn things like patience and consistency. They learn to bond with an animal,” Guidash said, “They learn to give orders.

And while Baird was helping the dog, he was helping himself.

“I’ve been through a lot of depression and anxiety throughout my life,” Baird said, “So coming in and working with them kind of took me away.”

The program is free for veterans. Guidash says Warrior Canine Connection cares for veterans with PTSD, substance abuse issues and mobility issues. Dogs are constantly training with veterans to get used to working with them. They can train dogs to react to stress and retrieve items for their owners, for example. When the dogs complete the program, they move on to more training or to someone who needs it.

Robin Martin is a Warrior Canine Connection volunteer puppy parent and Regional Training Coordinator

“I was a veteran. I worked at Walter Reed Hospital. I’ve seen what our war has done to our soldiers,” Martin continues, “And then I see what these dogs can do.”

Martin works with dogs from their puppies until they are around two years old. She sees the benefits first hand.

“The dog almost becomes the buffer for this veteran… It’s their fighting companion,” Martin said, “Dogs allow veterans to go out in public, to be part of the public again.”

The vets have been training every Wednesday with the dogs since April 6. The program continues through May 26 at Veterans Healing Farm. They hope to make it a permanent program.

If you are interested in being a puppy parent or a veteran interested in the program, email: [email protected]

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