I had the amazing opportunity to visit a local organization this past week called Warrior’s Best Friend. I had previously read an article about them in the Kansas City Star (read it for a lot more information) and had just finished reading About Tuesday, a book about the relationship between a veteran with PTSD and his service dog. I decided to raise money for them by selling t-shirts through Bonfire, one of my new favorite websites for fundraising (not sponsored, I just genuinely love it).
Warrior’s Best Friend pairs veterans with service dogs completely free of charge. All veterans that receive a service dog have some form of PTSD or traumatic brain injury (TBI) from their service. From Warrior’s Best Friend’s website:
Medical studies prove that service dogs can help speed up a soldier’s recovery, both physically and emotionally. And unlike other treatments, service canines provide a lifetime of assistance and companionship. Carefully vetted rescue canines go through a rigorous training process and get a new lease on life as a partner for a deserving wounded warrior. Unfortunately, many of our country’s warriors have to wait years to receive a service dog.
Most service dogs cost an average of $20,000, making it near impossible for most people needing a service animal to have access to one. Typically, service dogs are also specific types of breeds that are bred from a very young age to train as a working dog. Unlike other service dog organizations, all the dogs that Warrior’s Best Friend obtains for training are adopted from local shelters. The only requirements? The dogs have to be within 9 months to a year and a half old, and a certain height and weight to be able to perform certain tasks.
Warrior’s Best Friend is currently training 6 dogs but they hope to expand to be able to train even more and help more veterans. After the dogs are trained, veterans go to Liberty, Missouri, to spend 9 days with the dogs. The trainers at Warrior’s Best Friend pair the veterans with the dogs based on personality and the best match.
Every single expense—training the dogs, feeding the dogs, veterinarian care, the veterans staying in Liberty, and the first month of dog food—is all covered by Warrior’s Best Friend.
Warrior’s Best Friend receives money largely from sponsors in the community. For example, Home Depot donated a lot of the materials to help them rebuild their new facilities, but they still rely heavily on donations to keep their organization going. Upfront, the cost of training each dog is about $10,000. Insurance or the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs doesn’t typically cover the cost of a PTSD service dog. What isn’t covered by corporate sponsors or donations is personally covered by the organization’s founder, Joe Jeffers.
The dogs all live in this barn. More often than not, they’re trained outside, but there’s a training area on the top floor of the barn if needed for colder days. The main trainer also lives upstairs in case something happens overnight in which the dogs are needed. There’s a gated area outside for personal one-on-one training as well.
Above is Andrew, who is being trained to be a therapy dog. He’ll be able to be a support dog in counseling centers, doctor’s offices, or other places that would be helpful to have a therapy dog there for calming people down. (He currently has kennel cough—a common sickness dogs get when they’re first obtained from shelters—so he’s separate from the other dogs downstairs.)
Below is a video of Depot being trained. During their training sessions, the dogs are often exposed to shopping centers, sporting events, concerts, etc so they aren’t distracted by crowds, which is one of the biggest triggers for people with PTSD or TBI. The dogs are taught 25 commands in total, some of them demonstrated below.
From the article in the Kansas City Star:
“Almost every one of these veterans who comes through the program has wives, moms, dads, kids, and it dramatically changes their lives, too,” Jeffers said. “The gratification comes from once you see your first dog placed with a soldier. That’s where the passion comes to do this. There wouldn’t be any other reason to do it.”
I’m so grateful to everyone that helped me raise money for them and I’m happy that I was able to visit this incredible organization and see the amazing work that they’re doing! I was able to donate $700 to them. If you want to donate, you can do so through here.
Thanks for reading!