Tyanhna a disabled Army veteran, rarely left her home due to struggles with pain, limited mobility, and PTSD. Then she met Dude and life got a little bit easier.
“I’d really given up, and then I found Patriot PAWS,” she recalls. “Now Dude goes with me everywhere. He gets me out of the house, at least for a walk…and whether the pain is really bad or it’s a good day, he’s always there.”
When Lori Stevens founded Patriot PAWS Service Dogs, she admits to underestimating the demand. “It never crossed my mind that there would be a waiting list for people in need of working dogs,” she says. “I quickly learned the reality – demand for well-trained dogs far outpaces supply.”
In part, that’s due to the high cost to care for and train these canines. On average, it takes $35,000 and 24 to 30 months for a young dog to complete the Patriot PAWS training program. To help meet the ever-growing need, the Texas-based non-profit relies on dedicated volunteers, including an innovative program with three correctional facilities run by the Texas Department of Criminal Justice.
Lori says inmates who choose to participate in the program get a new “leash on life.” In addition to career training, they learn critical life skills such as conflict resolution, time management, and problem-solving – all while gaining a sense of purpose. The program’s benefits are clear, from the low recidivism rate (just 3%) to the change in how participating inmates interact with others.
The non-profit’s army of volunteers also includes college students and other community members. Thanks to this combined support, Patriot PAWS has paired more than 300 service dogs with veterans and others with mobility disabilities, all at no cost to the recipients.
“You can see a veteran’s life change before your very eyes, because of a dog. Their whole demeanor changes” says Sherri, a Patriot PAWS volunteer. “They can feel the weight of life lifted off their chests and they know tomorrow will be brighter with this companion by their side. Patriot PAWS is truly doing life-changing work.”