Today, in salute to Veterans Day, The Iowa Republican is going to the dogs. We’re tipping our hat to the service dogs being trained for placement with disabled Iowa veterans. According to Becky Beach, Paws and Effect, a nationwide non-profit program with a chapter in Iowa, raises, trains and places service dog with combat veteran in the greater Des Moines metro area. The Iowa Paws and Effect chapter is currently training 25 “hero dogs for American heroes.”
Six veterans with service from the Vietnam War through Operation Iraqi Freedom have been selected to receive one of nine dogs in a “military litter” that will be ready for placement March 2012. Other dogs will be deployed into service with Iowa veterans as the dogs complete their rigorous training process.
The dogs may be placed with a wheel-chair bound vet, or with one who has post-traumatic stress disorder. “The dogs have been trained to sense rapid heartbeats and changes in breathing. They are able to redirect their veteran and help prevent a PTSD flashback,” said Beech, a longtime fundraiser and GOP organizer.
For the special-needs veteran who has become isolated, the service dog is not only a companion, but can often be an ice breaker to help the vet come out of a shell and interact with others. “For many of our vets these dogs are like having someone in a bunker with them, someone who has their back.”
Paws and Effect acquires puppies, often Labrador retrievers selected because of the breeds temperament, places them in family homes and oversees their training for 18-months. Some dogs receive mobility training to assist a physically disabled vet. The dog will be able to perform such tasks as turning lights on and off, open and close hinged doors, or strike a pressure plate to activate opening or closing an automatic door. A mobility trained service dog can pull a wheel chair and assist in undressing an individual. Training is done both in family homes and with the dog training experts at Canine Craze in Urbandale.
A trained service dog can go anywhere, including a store or restaurant and interact with the public. Beach says many managers of stores and restaurants don’t realize that the Americans with Disabilities Act permits service animals to accompany their trainer or owner in places of business which ordinarily prohibits animals.
The training of a special service dog for a vet takes time and money to cover the expenses involved in acquiring, insuring and training the dog, veterinarian fees, and food. Individuals interested in contributing to Paws and Effect can send a check to Paws and Effect, c/o Becky Beach, 4020 John Lynde Drive, Des Moines, Iowa 50312
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