(WNCT) Army veteran Leah Bynum recently returned home to Pikeville with her new service dog, Thomas.
Thomas is a Labrador service dog trained to help Leah manage symptoms of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder that resulted from her military service.
On why she applied to K9s For Warriors, Leah said, “After reading through many previous K9s For Warriors graduate testimonies of how this process helped them, I decided this would be a great program for me. I hoped this program would help me live again instead of just existing.”
Upon arrival to K9s For Warriors, Leah was paired with Thomas, who had already completed formal service canine training in the months prior.
Along with the other members of their class, the team trained in public every day received instruction on matters of service dog access, dog health care and more, and established a bond that would facilitate Leah’s healing from the invisible wounds of war.
K9s For Warriors CEO, Rory Diamond, explains why the program is critical:
“There’s an epidemic of veteran suicide in our country. Service dogs are a proven method of alleviating the debilitating symptoms of PTSD – like suicidal ideation. They not only get our veterans back on their feet, but they also help them regain a sense of normalcy in their lives. Most veterans with PTSD think they’ve lost that forever.”
K9s For Warriors is a national nonprofit that takes eligible shelter dogs and trains them to be service dogs to mitigate symptoms of PTSD, Traumatic Brain Injury, and/or Military Sexual Trauma for post-9/11 service members and veterans.
It operates from two facilities in North Florida that procure and train the canines, pair them with an incoming veteran, then train the veteran and canine pair together.
After three weeks with his or her new service dog, the veteran has learned how to reintegrate into society and, most importantly, reduce suicidal ideation.