Ken was just 17 years old when he left home and joined the army, launching what would become a 28-year military career from Fort Bragg, NC.
But those years of brave service would take a physical toll — a broken neck and sternum, the mangled knee requiring 7 surgeries, and the lingering back, shoulder, and foot issues. “There was a lot of jumping out of aircraft, on the ground crawling, and of course when you’re doing all that kind of stuff in the military, you’re going to sustain some injury,” Ken told Greater Good Charities.
But that all paled in comparison to the traumatic brain injury that led to Ken’s discharge — and left the veteran struggling to move or speak. “There was nerve damage all over the place, so they had to teach me how to talk and adversely how to walk again,” he said. “That’s when I really started looking for a service dog.”
Service dogs, who are trained to help disabled veterans cope with the physical and emotional cost of war, can be a lifesaver for disabled veterans like Ken — but they’re also very expensive. According to one estimate, a service dog costs anywhere from $20,000 to $60,000, which often makes them unaffordable to those who need them most.
Thankfully, Ken got his service dog, Sebert, free of charge through Patriot PAWS Service Dogs, a Texas non-profit founded to provide disabled veterans with service dogs to improve their quality of life. “I needed someone when there’s no one around to talk to,” said Ken. “You can talk to a dog, an animal of any kind and they answer with a smile, they look at you a certain way. They rub up against you in a way that sometimes your family can’t even begin to understand that you need that emotional support.”
Ken had heard service dogs were well-trained, but the veteran was still shocked by exactly how much Sebert could do. “I kept hearing that a service dog would do this for me, and a serviced do would do that,” said Ken, whose dog–like all Patriot PAWS’ mobility service dogs–can open and close doors and cabinets, remove shoes and socks, helps him stand up, walk, and sit down, and knows how to get help in case of emergency.
“I didn’t really know that I was going to get a dog that could pick up a phone, pick up a cane, pick up keys,” Ken said. “I don’t even have to use certain cues; I just point, and he goes and gets it.”
Sometimes, Sebert even knows what Ken needs before the veteran knows it himself. “He also senses those things,” Ken said of the dog’s amazing emotional IQ. “There are times when I’m feeling bad and he’ll just come up to me and start rubbing on me and I’m thinking, “what did I do?” Then I realize that my mood’s changing, and I realize that he’s telling me, “I know everything is not okay.”
Today, Ken credits his service dog with helping him become more comfortable around people. “I really didn’t like being around people, but I am out more now than I used to be,” said Ken. “I credit that to my wife and my service dog that moved me in that direction.”
Bill is also a U.S. Army veteran who credits his service dog, Payton, with changing his life. “If I didn’t have Payton right now my life had been these four walls in my house,” said Bill, a disabled Gulf War veteran who got Payton for free through Patriot PAWS.
Before Payton entered his life, Bill – who bravely served our country for 20 years in the U.S. Army and Army Reserve – sustained muscle and nerve injuries that made him unsteady on his feet, prone to nasty falls, and fearful of leaving the house. “I was pretty much homebound because I was afraid to go out,” said Bill, who spent his days at home, just wondering when his legs would give out. “I’d be here in my house, I would not get out and about, I would not do things I needed to do for my wife and family,” he said. “I got to where I didn’t have friends. That was my life, that was just not a good place.”
But that changed when Bill got Payton, who helps the veteran walk, fetches his keys, and runs to get help if the veteran loses his footing. “People ask me about Peyton, and I’ve had people laugh and say does he do your laundry?” said Bill. “I say, actually, he does. He will pull the basket to the washer, he will take the clothes out of the basket and put them in the washer. I still must set the washer myself, but he will move them to the dryer,” Bill said. “It’s amazing what these animals can do mobility-wise, but also emotionally and mentally for us veterans.”
Greater Good Charities and the Animal Rescue Site are proud to support Patriot PAWS’s life-changing mission, which provides a critical service for disabled veterans, but has been running low on supplies during the global pandemic.
With your support, we were able to provide Patriot PAWS with a 3- to 6-months supply of leashes, collars, food bowls, orthopedic dog beds, preventive flea/tick treatments, and dog toys, treats, and other enrichment. These items will be used to train Patriot PAWS’ service dogs-in-training, all of whom undergo 2 to 2.5 years of training (sometimes starting from as young as 8 weeks of age) before graduation and placement.
Of course, this generous donation wouldn’t be possible without loyal support from Animal Rescue Site readers and shoppers, whose daily clicks and shopping at The Animal Rescue Site store allowed us to shower this worthy non-profit with donations worth thousands of dollars! Thank you for helping us support Ken, Bill, and other U.S. veterans.