The urgent needs of military veterans with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) provided a beacon for Helping Paws to broaden its mission to meet this need. In a few short years, Helping Paws service dogs have helped veterans affected by trauma lead more fulfilling lives.
If you are a veteran with PTSD who is interested in applying for a service dog and you meet our Eligibility Requirements, please start the application process by completing a Letter of Interest..
Aric and his service dog, Minnie: Aric retired from active military service in 2016 because of the effects of deployment, such as anxiety, PTSD, and severe muscle and joint pain. His wife Jenny encouraged him to consider getting a service dog. Meeting fellow military veterans at a Helping Paws open house specifically for veterans convinced him to give it a try.
“I envisioned getting a male Golden Retriever,” Aric says now. “But I got over that right away. There really couldn’t be a better match for me. Minnie is just unbelievable.”
Minnie assists Aric with tasks such as pulling off his socks when it’s too painful and turning on lights when they first enter the house. She maintains eye contact with him in public, helping ease any fears that arise in a crowded in hallway or retail store.
Minnie was trained for many tasks yet there are some strategies she developed on her own. Aric can have terrible nightmares that completely disrupt his sleep. Minnie sleeps next to his bed and when the night terrors start she jumps on and off the bed to awaken him. Jenny once watched Minnie do it seven times until it worked.
“Our relationship has developed so much that she just knows what’s needed. If I get a little anxious, she comes closer,” Aric says. “Minnie really keeps me in the present. You can live in the past, you can worry about the future, but she keeps me right here, right now. It’s been life-changing for my family.”
Paul and his service dog, Frannie: A Marine veteran who served in Vietnam, Paul has suffered debilitating effects from PTSD for more than 40 years. His match with Golden Retriever Franny brought a quickly apparent change to his life: On their first morning together, Paul woke up because Franny was gently licking his hand. He realized after the fact that he had been having a nightmare. True to her training, Franny recognized his stress and worked to alleviate it. Franny accompanies Paul to many places, including such busy venues as the State Fair, but day after day, night after night, she places herself between Paul and the door. Her presence allows him to rest, knowing his friend is watching out for him.
How can an Assistance Dog help a veteran with PTSD?
- By acting as a barrier in crowds, allowing the veteran the choice to maintain personal space or boundaries
- By waking or reorienting the veteran when he or she has nightmares or flashbacks
- By turning on a light in a dark room
- By entering a room before the veteran enters to relieve the veteran’s hypervigilance
- By bringing the veteran a phone to talk to someone about anxiety
- By ‘speaking’ on command to either draw attention to a veteran or act as a deterrent if the veteran is feeling threatened
- By helping reduce anxiety by touching and being close to the veteran
- By being a trusted companion and providing unconditional love every minute of every day
Are you eligible to receive a Helping Paws Assistance Dog? You must be
- A veteran with a diagnosis of PTSD
- A resident within Minnesota or the bordering areas of the surrounding states
- Financially able to take full responsibility for a dog, including but not limited to dog food and veterinary care. Costs such as annual vaccinations, additional veterinary needs, dog food and dog toys may cost upwards of $1,000 per year.
- Able to attend the Team Training course held at the Helping Paws Training Center in Hopkins, MN
- Willing to participate in follow-up training
- Able to provide a stable home environment