Pets trained to help heal vets
By Sue Ellen Ross Post-Tribune correspondent February 18, 2013 2:18PM
Charlie Sargent, chairman of the Vets 'n Pets program of Dunes Dog Training Club, (right) meets with Elliott, a one-year-old yellow labrador retriever at the Humane Society of NWI in Gary, Ind. Tuesday February 5, 2013. At left is Betty Clayton, executive director of the Humane Society of NWI. The program pairs veterans with PTSD with dogs to train. | Stephanie Dowell~Sun-Times Media
For more information about the Pets N Vets program, call 996-4770 or visit the website dunesdogtrainingclub.com.
Updated: March 20, 2013 6:12AM
The old adage of a dog being “man’s best friend” has been taken to a higher level by the Dunes Dog Training Club of Hebron.
The organization recently introduced a new program, Pets N Vets, which matches a veteran experiencing Post Traumatic Stress Disorder with a dog from a local shelter.
“It’s a win-win situation,” said club member Charlie Sargent, who came up with the idea. “We were already working with families that came to our training sessions and they commented on the positive effects with the veteran/dog interaction.”
Club president Sharon Sylvie agreed that Sargent’s plan was a novel approach to address veterans with PTSD. She joined Sargent in presenting the Pets N Vets concept to local veterans clinics and veterans organizations. It was well-received, and the wheels began turning as possible veteran candidates were selected.
The pair also approached local animal shelters, and the first to come forward was the Humane Society of Northwest Indiana in Gary’s Miller neighborhood.
“We don’t know what our veterans have been through physically or emotionally. Whatever we can do to help, we will,” said Betty Clayton, the shelter’s director. “With this program, we are getting a responsible pet owner and a well-trained dog.”
The first dog to participate in the program, Elliot, recently was readied for pickup with a bath and grooming by Clayton and her staff. The 1-year-old Labrador retriever had been residing in the shelter for one month.
Sylvie and Sargent were to take Elliot temporarily to a boarding facility owned by one of their club’s members until he met his new owner.
“Our veterans deserve an opportunity to participate in programs that help them heal,” Sylvie said. “It gives me a good feeling to work with these soldiers who fought for our country.”
The dog training club offers various programs for dogs and their owners, some lasting eight weeks and some longer, since different types of dogs take different amounts of times to be trained.
The veterans and dogs in Pets N Vets will attend training classes to facilitate the formation of their “healing team.”
The goal of the training class is to pass the Canine Good Citizen Evaluation. Standards are set by the American Kennel Club.
Clayton will continue to work with the program, and also will follow-up with Elliot and his progress, she added.