Hearts for Heroes lends a paw to veterans - WALB.com, South Georgia News, Weather, Sports

Hearts for Heroes lends a paw to veterans

ALBANY, GA (WALB) -

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) can be debilitating for veterans as they try and re-enter everyday living after dealing with war.

Hearts for Heroes has partnered with K2 Solutions for their first K-9 handling program.

K2 solutions saves dogs from shelters and trains them to be lifelong companions to veterans.

Veterans get a chance to connect with dogs that have been taken from kill shelters and trained to be companions.

The dogs help calm the stresses and fears that are associated with PTSD.

It is a long-term process to procure and train the dogs in public and home settings.

The dogs are trained to be used to the social aspects of a home- vacuum cleaners, trash cans full of trash, even visitors who come in and put shoes on the floor.

Throughout the process, a mental health physician helps with finding the perfect match.

Veterans

are spending a week at Wynfield Plantation to get to know the dogs until they find a perfect match.

Neil Tejada served in the Marines and was injured in Afghanistan.

He said he was a different person before meeting Hearts for Heroes.

"It's like a shell shock," said Tejada. "You get used to what you're going through over there. So it's kind of something you have to figure out in order to balance yourself with others."

Ian Barber enlisted at age 23 and served in the Army and National Guard.

"I was immediately comfortable with them," he commented. "There's no stress involved in this training, and I've already budded up with a few dogs."

In the wake of PTSD symptoms, Barber said he knows veterans who won't even leave their homes.

"They would actually miss meals until a friend could go with them because of their fear of being out in public," said Barber.

The whole process takes about 6 months.

At the end of the curriculum and a mental health evaluation and a site evaluation are passed Vet and handler have a new life.

"This week is part of that who gets introduced to whom and they've had the experience to meet all the dogs, so they get some choices, but they will be partnered with a dog that suits their needs," said Hearts for Heroes President Key Burns.

The first time was such a success, Hearts for Heroes is planning to come back to Wynfield Plantation with a new match program next summer.

MORE: Hearts 4 Heroes United States

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