Citing Growing Need, 'Helping Paws' to Help Veterans
Citing an exploding need and the personal requests of veterans, the Helping Paws organization, which for a quarter century has trained service dogs for people with physical disabilities, will begin training canines for military veterans suffering from post traumatic stress disorder, known as PTSD.
"The veterans, when they called and asked for help, it's really hard to say no," explained Helping Paws director of programs Eileen Bohn.
The Hopkins-based organization "graduates" about a dozen trained dogs a year. People who apply and are later accepted are matched with either a golden retriever or a labrador retriever at minimal cost. The $30,000 expense for the two years it takes to train the dogs is almost all covered by donations.
Applications from veterans with PTSD are now being accepted for the first time.
"They've given so much to our country," Bohn told 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS, "that we felt that it was really important to take a look at this."
Former U.S. Army Capt. Luis Montalvan served two tours in Iraq but said he left the military after 17 years because of his developing PTSD symptoms.
When asked if there was a growing need for help for veterans with PTSD symptoms - which the military estimates is more than 15 percent of active duty service members and veterans - Montalvan answered, "absolutely."
"It's a need going unmet. The Department of Veterans Affairs, the Department of Defense, the government in general has failed, is failing, in its efforts to provide for service members, veterans and their families."
On Tuesday, Montalvan greeted trainers and service dog recipients at Helping Paws' headquarters.
Montalvan, who wrote a New York Times bestseller about his experiences and how his service dog, Tuesday (whom he refers to as a "crutch with a soul"), has helped him, is visiting the Twin Cities this week to help raise money for the organization.
"Helping Paws' mission couldn't be more relevant right now," Montalvan said.
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