May is Military Appreciation Month and a great opportunity to shine the spotlight on the K9s For Warriors organization that pairs specially trained shelter dogs with veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and/or traumatic brain injury (TBI) — to further support the lifelong bond of the organization’s graduate teams: warriors and their service dogs.
The valuable work done by this organization is supported by Bayer, the global health care enterprise that inter alia manufactures many products to aid pet health and general care. They are using their clout to connect K9s For Warriors alumni with veterinary clinics and pet retailers across the country that agree to provide free health and wellness goods and services needed to care for each warrior’s service dog. The program, called Operation K9 Care, is completely free to the veterans and ensures that all those who graduate from K9s For Warriors can more easily afford to keep their life-saving service dogs happy and healthy, which in turn, helps these veterans live a fulfilling life.
For the veterans who graduate from K9s For Warriors, their service dogs are truly their lifelines. The combined efforts of the veterinary clinics and pet retailers participating in Operation K9 Care will help to alleviate the financial burden associated with caring for a service dog. Veterans will instead be able to focus on their journey with their service dogs, healing and regaining their independence.
K9s For Warriors is the only service dog organization for post-9/11 veterans that requires them to live and train on-site with their service dogs before going home. K9s For Warriors’ unique program offers 120 hours of hands-on training with certified dog trainers, housing, meals, veterinary care, training equipment, and peer-to-peer support at no cost to the veteran. The program reports a 100 percent success rate in suicide prevention in the graduates of the program. What’s more, 66 percent of warrior graduates report a reduction in medications.
“These service dogs are life savers,” said Shari Duval, President and Founder of K9s For Warriors. “We’re losing about 8,000 American military heroes each year due to suicide, which is heart breaking and unacceptable. What these dogs can do for veterans is a miracle, and we thank Bayer for connecting us with the veterinary clinics and pet retailers that are helping to eliminate the expense of service dog ownership for our nation’s heroes.”
Veterinary clinics participating in Operation K9 Care will offer a free health and wellness plan that includes services such as:
- Comprehensive physical exam
- Diagnostic testing
- Fecal exams
- Parasite education, with Bayer providing K9 Advantix® II to help protect the dogs from fleas, ticks and mosquitoes.Clinics are welcome to provide additional services, such as dental cleanings and other diagnostic tests. – 1/3 –
Participating pet retailers will offer K9s For Warriors graduates who are local to their communities, an annual $1,000 gift card for the life of the warrior’s service dog to help cover the cost of dog food, grooming services, leashes and other supplies.
“Operation K9 Care is a program fully devoted to delivering compassion and second chances for veterans and shelter dogs alike,” said Bryan Foltz, a recent graduate of K9s For Warriors, with his service dog, Dell (see photograph above). “Bayer makes it possible for me to focus on taking care of Dell, who saved my life. Thank you to all the veterinarians and pet retailers participating in this nationwide effort to help veterans, as well as the dogs that are helping us, heal from debilitating disorders like PTSD each and every day.”
The majority of dogs in the K9s For Warriors training program are rescues from shelters. To date, 207 warrior/canine teams have graduated from the program, and nearly 300 dogs in total have been cared for in K9s For Warriors kennels.
Bayer first partnered with K9s For Warriors in 2014. As of 2016, the company has contributed over $500,000 to the organization and saved 65 warrior/dog teams, in addition to creating Operation K9 Care, supplying K9 Advantix® II, the official flea and tick preventive of K9s For Warriors, to each training facility, and giving each graduating warrior a year’s supply of K9 Advantix® II for their service dog.
“These shelter-to-service dogs and veterans form deep, lifetime bonds built on mutual love, care and devotion. Bayer is committed to ensuring that this unbreakable bond is supported through the routine and proper care these dogs need to do their jobs and support their warriors,” said David Van Brunt, Vice President, Companion Animal Product Marketing, Bayer Animal Health. “Operation K9 Care demonstrates and honors not only our nation’s service men and women, but the dogs that bring the joy of living back into their lives. Thank you to the veterinary clinics and pet supply retailers nationwide who have agreed to support this mission and make a significant, lasting impact in the lives of these graduate teams.”