Veterans train service dogs as therapy in Hendersonville

Published: Apr. 19, 2022 at 6:05 PM EDT
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HENDERSONVILLE, N.C. (FOX Carolina) - In Western North Carolina, dogs will be ready to serve someone in need, all thanks to a few men and women who have served.

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

Nicholas Baird is a Marine Vetera

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

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

“Before then, there was a lot of tension in my life,” said Baird, “Coming in during those sessions, it was just like therapy.”

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

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

“They’re learning things like patience and consistency. They’re learning how to bond with an animal,” Guidash said, “They’re learning how to give commands.”

And while Baird helped the dog, he helped himself.

“I’ve held a lot of depression and anxiety though my life,” Baird said, “So, coming in and working with them, it just kind of pulled that away.”

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

Robin Martin is a Warrior Canine Connection volunteer puppy parent and the regional training coordinator

“I was a veteran. I worked at the hospital at Walter Reed. I saw what our war did to our soldiers,” Martin continues, “And then, I see what these dogs can do.”

Martin works with the dogs from the time their puppies until they’re about two years old. She sees the benefits first-hand.

“The dog becomes almost the buffer for that veteran... It’s their battle buddy,” said Martin, “The dogs allow the veterans to come out in the public, be part of the public again.”

The vets have been training every Wednesday with the dogs since Apr. 6. The program continues until May 26 at Veterans Healing Farm. They hope to make this an ongoing program.

If you’re interested in being a puppy parent or a veteran interested in the program email: volunteer@veteranshealingfar.org.