Semper K9 Assistance Dogs trains rescued canines to aid military veterans struggling with physical disabilities, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and other mental health issues. Founded by Chris and Amanda Baity, the couple brings a unique perspective to what has become their life’s work.
Chris served in the Marine Corps through four combat deployments, running kennels and training dogs to detect weapons and explosives. However, each time he returned stateside, he found the transition back to family life was fraught with difficulties, especially as he struggled with PTSD, as well as drug and alcohol use. Upon leaving the military, Chris realized he could use his acumen for canine training to give his life greater purpose, help other veterans and give shelter dogs a second chance.
While many organizations provide service dogs for veterans, Amanda says Semper K9’s family-inclusive approach is unique. “As a military family ourselves, we felt it was important to include the entire family,” explains Amanda. “We view this as journey together.”
Toward that end, Amanda and Chris developed specific training programs for family members, to help ensure the service dog makes a smooth transition into the home. In addition to learning basic commands, their time at Semper K9 provides time and space for military families to reconnect. “Many veterans struggling with PTSD isolate themselves from their families,” Amanda explains. “We help bring them back together.”
Semper K9 rescues dogs from high-kill shelters and trains them to be service dogs – all at no cost to the veteran. Grants, like Nutrena’s Feed it Forward program, and a dedicated army of 120 volunteers, make it all possible. It can take up to 18 months to transform a rescue dog into a service animal. But the benefits to the veteran and his or her family make the work worthwhile. As Amanda explains, “We replace despair with hope, and you can see the change right before your eyes.”