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Rescue Dogs Comfort Veterans With PTSD

Dog T.A.G.S. matches rescue dogs with veterans suffering from post traumatic stress disorder

(Published Thursday, July 21, 2016)

A new program in Pennsylvania's Lehigh Valley is helping to pair dogs who need a home with veterans who need a friend.

Lynda Cole just opened a new training facility for a program called Dog T.A.G.S. (Train, Assist, Guide and Serve), which matches rescue dogs with veterans suffering from post traumatic stress disorder.

Service dogs can help with simple tasks and serve as a watchful eye. They are also comfort vets who suffer from night terrors or flashbacks, or who feel anxious in crowds.

"They’re your best friend, someone you can always count on," said Cole. "They’re always there for you."

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Kevin, a teen with autism and cerebral palsy, knew he found a forever friend when he met Yukon, an eight month old great dane, at a kennel. Kevin's mother, Tabatha Branch, said the feeling was mutual.

"It was really amazing when we got there to the rescue shelter when they brought Yukon back out he immediately just walked up to Kevin and wrapped his arms around and laid his little head on him, it was so precious. It was just like instant," Branch told NBC affiliate WBBH.

Branch said she believes Yukon would know if her son was going to have a seizure and alert them, adding that the family is happy Kevin has found such a loyal best friend.

(Published Monday, July 24, 2017)

At the center, rescue dogs and their owners learn drills and practice being in public places, like a crowded airport or shopping mall. The dog’s job is to be a constant comforting presence for the combat veteran. For most, the program is free through the help of local non-profits raising money and is always looking for new candidates.

"If you have a brother, if you have an uncle or cousin who suffers from combat PTSD, now there’s help in the Lehigh Valley," said Les Houck of Operation Lost & Found.

Interested veterans are encouraged to give the center a call, find a dog and start training.

"It’s so rewarding. You’ve helped. You’ve taken these guys from a point where they couldn’t handle a task to a point where they can," said Cole. "There is no words to describe it. It’s awesome."

More than 53,000 pets were adopted through the 2016 Clear the Shelters campaign, a nationwide push to place deserving animals in forever homes. Join the conversation on social media using #ClearTheShelters.

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