Service dog program used to help vets

Veterans service dog training

Veterans in this area are getting help for their disabilities that no doctor, or any person can give.

And it's not only saving their lives, but also the lives of homeless dogs in the shelter.

Sgt. Robert Wright served over seas in the U.S. Army. Pvt. Jerry Lambert did as well. Both veterans came home with battle wounds of the brain.

"Basically a lot of the flashbacks, you know, and the nightmares," explained veteran Jerry Lambert.

Jerry has been in mental health treatment for a while. Then a doctor recommenced a service dog. Sam changed his life.

"I'm more happy. I'm more out the bed. I'm doing more stuff, you know. I'm going out in public more where I was scared to even go into Wal-Mart because I'd have a panic attack," Lambert explained of his life before he got his service dog Sam.

Robert says Penny saved his life twice: Once when he was being robbed and another when he was unresponsive.

"She had this uncanny ability to tell when you're not doing good or when you get sick, she knows how to go and get someone and bring back," said Wright of his service dog Penny.

It's all a part of a program Bill Barse of started to save homeless dogs in the shelters, have them trained in prisons to be service dogs, then given to people in need, free. But today is the kickoff of the new Companions for Life Training Academy at the Jefferson East Bank Animal Shelter. Veterans and their companion dogs, or service dogs, or newly adopted dogs will get special, free, service dog training.

"It's more of a mission and it kind of completes our mission statement of saving paws and saving souls," explained Barse.

One of the things Sam is trained to do, is block and guard Jerry when a stranger approaches, so he will feel safe.

"I just wish that many other veterans could be acquainted with a service dog. They help you so much," said Wright.

They also hope to start veterans training programs in St. Tammany, Plaquemines and Washington parishes in the next six months.


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