Battle Buddies for Life

Recently the San Marcos Regional Animal Shelter had the opportunity to partner with the non-profit Train a Dog Save a Warrior (TADSAW)  organization to give three shelter dogs a new leash on life. 

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), is a very real mental health issue that many veterans live with for the rest of their lives after experiencing combat. Missions that expose veterans to horrible and life-threatening experiences leave a lasting impression on the brain. These wounded warriors need extra and specialized help to overcome what is perhaps their biggest battle.

TADSAW’s mission is to improve the quality of life for veterans experiencing PTSD. TADSAW provides veterans with a canine rescue “Battle Buddy,” and the training and tools needed to become an accredited TADSAW Warrior/Service Dog Team…at no cost to the veteran.

A Trainer Meets the Dogs

 Leland Kidd, a dog trainer with seven years of training experience, three of those years with TADSAW, covers much of the Hill Country. He explained during his shelter visit the type of dog he looks for… a dog that is confident yet not aggressive, not overly excitable, and one that responds to basic handling and touch from a stranger. After spending some time in the play yard with three shelter dogs he found just what he was looking for and contacted the disabled vets who were waiting by the phone. Within 24 hours, the veterans made their way to the shelter to meet the dogs chosen specifically for them to make sure they felt the same connection that Leland experienced.
Leland and Chelsea
Jamaal and Chelsea

The First Veteran Meets Their Match

Jamaal is an Air Force veteran who served for 20 years before retiring. Jamaal saw combat in Afghanistan, Iraq and Kosovo and lives with PTSD and memory loss as a result. His meeting with “Chelsea,” a female German Shepherd, was everything he hoped, and for Chelsea it put her back in the middle of a loving family. Chelsea was owner surrendered with her brother from a family whose housing situation did not allow for her. She came already housebroken and her notes from her previous owner said she was good with women, children and men. Jamaal had been on a waiting list for a service dog for two years before the visit to our animal shelter. The same day they met, Chelsea proudly marched out to Jamaal’s car and loaded up to go home to meet Jamaal’s four kids and wife in Castroville.

Bindhi Makes an Immediate Connection

Myles is also an Air Force veteran who served his country for 12 years before his disability. Myles suffers with heightened sensory issues with his PTSD. He shared that he was advised by his medical provider that a service dog could provide valuable help in replacing senses that he’s lost. He contacted TADSAW in November and said the call he received from Leland was one he was anxiously awaiting. When Bindhi, a Rhodesian Ridgeback, came out to meet Myles, an amazing thing happened. Bindhi went directly to where Myles was sitting and laid down at his feet. She did not move during the entire interview while Myles talked and stroked her head. Bindhi also came to the shelter as an owner surrender by an elderly couple who, due to health issues, could no longer take care of her. Perhaps living with a family who had health issues prepared her for her next assignment and she recognized it immediately.

Myles, Maria Rangel and Bindhi
Tyler and Chance in truck

Chance Gets His Second Chance

Tyler is a disabled Marine who served for four years. He first heard of TADSAW when a former employer reached out to him. The employer had been contacted by TADSAW for a donation and, learning the mission of the organization, thought Tyler would benefit from what they offered. Remember Chelsea the German shepherd who had been owner surrendered with her brother? Meet Chance, Chelsea’s big brother. Yes, both siblings were chosen for therapy dogs and matched with the veteran who needed them most. Tyler lives in New Braunfels on a large property with plenty of room for exploring. Chance jumped at the chance (literally) when he climbed up into Tyler’s big truck. When Tyler roared the engine to life and the country music poured out of the radio, Chance sat next to his new person and looked out the rolled down window at us and, we’re convinced, gave us the biggest dog grin we’ve ever seen. As they pulled out of the parking lot, his tongue hanging out tasting the wind, Chance looked right at home in his new life.

Now with all three dogs matched up with all three vets, the work begins. The TADSAW training program is based on a 15 to 25 week course of Positive Reinforced training that works with both the vet and the dog. Through generous donations, TADSAW is able to provide this training at no cost to the veteran. Through guardian angel shelter donations that provide for free adoptions, the dogs report for duty fully vaccinated, microchipped and spayed/neutered. For all of us, it is a victory for both the veteran and his new “Battle Buddy.”

Note: permission was given by veterans to share their medical history and stories. Their hope is to get the word out to other vets who may have similar needs