Battle buddies

Vets learn about dog companion program

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Sealy veterans gathered last week to learn about how they could benefit from a special kind of friend – a canine. Members of Sealy American Legion Post 442 gathered to hear from Brad Sherwood, founder of “Train a Dog, Save a Warrior.” “It’s able to do a lot better job than drugs. It keeps [the veterans] focused on taking care of themselves,” Sherwood explained during his March 18 presentation. “There’s no side effects other than maybe waking up in the middle of the night because the dog is barking.” A dog can sense when the owner is triggered by something and will nudge him or do something to get the owner’s attention. “It works,” he said. “That human-canine bond is in the dog. We like our service dogs to be part of the family.” TADSAW does not charge for the animal or the training, which takes up to 25 weeks. They do ask for donations. “Training the person to handle the dog, that’s the secret,” Sherwood said. “He has to put his trust in the dog.” The battle buddies are trained in occupational, physical, psychotherapeutic and spiritual opportunities. “It’s about the person we’re supposed to be taking care of, the veterans,” Sherwood said. “We feel like it’s an honor and a privilege to take care of our veterans.” In 2018, there were 149 service dog teams accredited. Almost 500 veterans in the state of Texas – both male and female – have gone through the program. “It’s giving them back their lives,” he said. “We try to keep our trainers within a 60- to 90-minute driving radius of the veteran. We want them training in their own home. We’re going to show you what to do but if you don’t go home and practice it you’re not going to get anywhere.” The former pharmacist said he doesn’t sugarcoat the process. He simply believes in its therapeutic value. “There’s only one test we can’t train a dog for, and that’s suicide prevention,” Sherwood explained. “The only way you can teach a dog to prevent suicide is by positive reinforcement, let him know when something is wrong.” For more information, visit tadsaw.org.

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