NewsVoice for Veterans


Training puppies to be service dogs for Veterans

Puppies on a medical mission
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Posted at 11:50 AM, Oct 26, 2020
and last updated 2020-10-26 11:50:14-04

NEW ORLEANS, La. (Ivanhoe Newswire) – Service dogs. They do everything from helping veterans suffering from PTSD to the disabled live everyday life.

Although their companionship is priceless, the cost of training can run up to $50,000. Now, two women are changing how they’re trained. Instead of individual homes, these dogs are raised in hospitals.

It’s a long grueling journey before a service dog can graduate into a veteran’s arms … even with the right breeding, years of training, and tens of thousands of dollars invested.

Cody Bellanger says only 50 percent of the puppies at United States Veterans Service Dogs graduate to become service animals each year. “We have 1,900 applicants waiting for dogs in literally all 50 states,” said Cody Bellanger, who works at United States Veterans Service Dogs.

But at Touro Infirmary, speech pathologist Maggie homer and physical therapist Maggie Watson are trying to improve that statistic.

By training their puppies in a hospital, their dogs are getting a one-of-a-kind experience. Navigating around equipment. Listening to commands. Even reading commands. Skills that up their chances of graduating on becoming a full-service, service dog for veterans. “This program being implemented in a hospital environment is a big deal for veterans but it’s also a big deal in general,” said Bellanger.

The hospital even noticed an unexpected bonus … moral among staff seemed to change. “There’s nothing like having something around you that’s just happy,” said Maggie Homer, a Speech Pathologist and Puppy Raiser at the Touro Hospital.

Even motivating patients to get moving and go to physical therapy. “And I mean puppies … who doesn’t like a puppy?” said Ryan Cashmore, a patient. It was a win-win-win for veterans, for patients, and for staff.

These puppy raisers hope it will be a model for other hospitals around the country.