In just over seven years, one locally-based nonprofit organization has become the nation’s largest provider of service dogs to military veterans.
K9s for Warriors was founded by Shari Duval in March 2011 with the goal of providing physical and emotional independence for veterans suffering from traumatic brain injuries, post-traumatic stress disorder, and military sexual trauma as a result of post-9/11 military duty.
Duval was inspired to launch the organization when her son returned home from two tours in Iraq with post-traumatic stress disorder. Years later, K9s for Warriors just celebrated the 500th graduation from its program and continues to grow rapidly under the leadership of Duval and the organization’s CEO, Rory Diamond.
“[The] men and women of our military fought for our tomorrows, so we fight for theirs,” explains Duval via the organization’s website.
The dogs trained by K9s for Warriors come from local shelters and from owners who surrendered their pets. So far they’ve saved nearly 1,000 dogs, either training them for service or finding them new homes. The canines live in climate-controlled stalls and have five dog parks to play around in as they train and await their assignment.
Service dogs and their new veteran partners undergo an extensive training program to help them understand each other’s needs. Veterans are invited to stay at the organization’s Camp K9 campus in Ponte Vedra during training. The 17,000-square-foot facility features living space, a kitchen and dining hall, an exercise room, and a library. After training, veterans are provided with equipment to make their transition easier. The entire process is 100% free for the veterans who participate thanks to the organization’s fundraising ventures.
With each program graduation, the organization potentially saves two lives: the veteran and the adopted service dog.
To learn more about K9s for Warriors and how you can get involved, check out their official website.