K9s for Warriors

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I was watching ESPN a couple of days ago, and one of the shows had former NFL player Brian Dawkins on. I was fortunate to have been at the Pro Football Hall of Fame ceremony where he was inducted. As a Chicago Bear fan, I was there to see Brian Urlacher of course, but was also looking forward to a speech from Ray Lewis, who has been known to have passionate speeches.

Little did I know, the most powerful speech of the day would be from Dawkins. I was aware that he was a very good football player, but I knew little about his past, which he shared that day. Even after making the NFL, he battled mental illness, depression, and thoughts of suicide.

What is K9s for Warriors?

So it makes since that Dawkins was drawn to the nonprofit organization K9s for warriors. This organization, based out of Jacksonville, Florida, rescues dogs from high-kill shelters, and pairs them with warriors, both veterans and active duty, who are struggling with PTSD (Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder), MST (Military Sexual Trauma) and TBI (Traumatic Brain Injury).

It was founded in 2011 by Shari Duval. His son was a veteran K9 police office who had served 2 tours in Iraq as a bomb dog handler. When he returned home, dealing with PTSD was an eye-opener to Duval and his family. After studying the effects that properly trained canines could have on a person going through PTSD, he decided that the best way he could help these veterans was to start a non-profit organization that would help these warriors return to civilian life.

Each month up to 12 veterans will spend three weeks at their facilities in Florida, where they are paired with a canine, which 90% come from high-kill or rescue shelters. These canines are already trained when the veterans arrive at the facility. After these 3 weeks these men and women are able to return to their friends and family, with a much brighter outlook on life. You can read some of the testimonials here.

This is 100% free to the veterans who enter the program, with the exception of travel to and from K9s for Warriors. They also have a list of organizations that can help with the travel if needed. During the 3 weeks they will receive public access testing, service canine equipment, seminars, veterinary care, meals, and housing.

Who is Eligible?

As of now, only service men and women who served after 9/11 are eligible, and must have been clinically diagnosed with PTSD, TBI, or MST to qualify for this program.

There is an 18-month waiting list for the program, but there are times when veterans could arrive months before their scheduled time. Of course they are working to expand, with the second facility opening up in Gainesville, Florida in 2018.

How does this help service men and women?

The founders of K9s for Warriors joined with the University of Purdue in order to do a study to find empirical evidence that service dogs help relieve post traumatic stress symptoms in veterans. In 2015, Dr. Maggie O’ Haire from Purdue assessed 141 veterans with PTSD.

75 of these veterans had already graduated with a service dog form K9s for Warriors, 68 were still on the waiting list for one. Several measurements were used, including:

  • Social participation
  • Family functioning
  • Sympathetic Nervous System arousal
  • Sleep/wake behavior
  • Cortisol awakening response
  • Dog interactions

The Results of the Study

In February 2018, the first study was published in the Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology. It was confirmed that there were many benefits for the veterans, including:

  • Lower overall symptoms of Post-traumatic Stress
  • Lower levels of depression
  • Higher levels of life satisfaction
  • Higher overall psychological well-being
  • Higher ability to interact socially
  • Less time missing work 

How Can I Help?

If you would like to donate, just go to the K9s for Warriors page and set up either a one-time donation or the recurring option if you would prefer.

If you are in the Jacksonville, Florida area, you can donate your time working at their facility. You can also assist by either donating a dog, or fostering a dog until one is needed for a warrior.

There are many other different ways to help, including hosting community events, donating a car, or give through your workplace using the CFC (Combined Federal Campaign), which employees can give through their companies’ payroll system.

Conclusion

The number 20 is more than the number that was on Dawkins jersey when he played. It is the estimated number of veterans who commit suicide every day. Medication and therapy are not working. Some are on 12-14 different medications when they arrive, yet after going through the program 92% either lower or eliminate their medication.

K9s for Warriors is committed to helping the men and women who have sacrificed so much to protect our nation. As of January 2020, 604 warriors have gone through the training, and there have been 1,161 dogs have been rescued as well. If you would like to help, please go to K9s for Warriors today.

If you have been through this program, or know somebody who has, tell us about your experience in the comment section below. Or if you have any questions, please leave those as well!

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14 Comments

  1. Hello, I really want to first appreciate your effort in putting this great website together and writing this article. i really commend bringing up this platform and starting up the program. even if we still loose veterans everyday, at least we can reduce the numbers and therefore the impact. thank you for this post

    • I agree, hopefully we get to a day where we don’t hear about veterans losing their life. I think this is a great system and helps tremendously! 

  2. This Is a welcome development, rescuing dogs from high kill centers is a very good gesture towards the animals and it’s importance to humanity. I love k9s, I’d love to be paired with one but I do not know how to care for dogs. I like dogs better when they are still very little, I had a puppy once. It was really beautiful. Can I get a little puppy and later on give it when it grows bigger and older? I think I might get very attached as it grows older but let’s see how this. 

    • I think you would get attached as well, it is hard not to. My family always gets animals that I say I’m not going to get attached to but that never works out! 

  3. Thank you so much for sharing such an informative post on K9 for warriors. I have never heard this organization before and it sounds amazing! Pet Therapy actually works, especially for the veterans that have been going through trauma. I will definitely share your post, a little share goes a long way 🙂

  4. I have always thought that it seems great to me that there are these types of associations that support soldiers, and this group seems excellent to me, in addition it is greatly appreciated that there are people like you who take the time to write posts like this to put resources war veterans.

  5. Coming across your post has made my day a lot brighter. Thank you for this post about K9’s for Warriors! I have a few friends that are Veterans and have been diagnosed with PTSD. I have got to the VA hospital at times with them for appointments. I love going there because you can always find someone that wants to talk. I really hope that everyone sees this post as I believe taking care of our service men and women should be in the front of our minds. 

    Thank you for this!

    • I completely agree, we should try and take care of them after they put everything on the line to make sure that we are safe and free over here!

  6. Hi Travis,

    I like your out cry to help the veterans and your post is heartily written and definitely support it.

    As non-American (coming from Europe) I do not necessarily relate to the topic of k9s.

    I can not really understand the role of this very important topic of veterans in your fantasy sports daddy website.

    It seems out of place. Maybe you should post your article on another website or platform, where it would be more relevant.

    But I totally understand your desire to support your cause. It is probably much more alive in your American culture.

    Good luck anyway

    Sebb

    • I agree, it is not typically something that I write about, but I feel it is a very important topic and decided to put it out there for my readers who may feel the same that I do about our military members. If having canines helps our service men and women then I am all for using that to help both them and the dogs. 

  7. I loved this article on veterans and the effect animals can have on healing. I notice you list the results of the study and those are pretty awesome. It’s good the whole project is measured for results as well. Animals are great for rehabilitation and therapy and this really highlights this cause. I actually forgot about the sport connection half way through the article but what a great platform to be able to promote it and of course for you to write about. Amazing stuff. Will you be doing updates?

    • I will be doing updates as the program grows, and hopefully spread the word to as many readers as I can. Thank you for checking it out, hopefully you can spread it to your friends and family as well!

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