4 legged healers help our heroes

The Paws 4 Vets program provides service dogs to wounded warriors

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COLUMBIA, S.C. (WOLO) – “Our son was dying,” says Carol Mitchell, with tears in her eyes.  As her gaze splits between her son Jeffrey and his service dog Austin, she explains that after being diagnosed with PTSD related to military service, “he tried everything.”  Jeff joined the U.S. Army in 2002, and was deployed to Iraq in 2003 and 2005.  When he returned, it became clear he was struggling with post traumatic stress disorder.  The PTSD, as its known, was so severe, that he was medically retired from the military in 2007.

Carol says Jeff went through programs, took recommendations, and treatments as prescribed by the military and the V.A.  It wasn’t until they found the paws4vets program that he started to get better.

As far as the Mitchell’s, Jeff says of his best friend, Austin, “After having difficulty, I had tried everything, so after reading about the program, I wanted to become involved.  As Jeff talks about Austin, you can see the bond between the two.  It’s strong, and it’s one of uncompromising love.”

“He lives for Jeff,” Carol says, “it opened a crack that let his healing begin.”

The Paws 4 Vets program was created in 2008 as a part of the paws4people program, which pairs service dogs with people suffering from a myriad of health-related issues.

“A dog provides unconditional love,” says paws4vets program coordinator Cece McConnell, pointing out that the labs and golden retrievers the program uses have only desire to “please and be loved.”

paws4vets, a non-profit that relies on public funding also enjoys many partnerships with businesses, including General’s Hot Sauce.  General’s Hot Sauce founder Dan Ballester says the decision to get involved with the program was easy.

“We want to be a business with a purpose, and when we met this group, we knew we needed to be involved,” he says.

According to McConnell, the need for assistance is great, pointing out that the program can provide only one dog for every 50 applications.

Does the program work?  Ask Carol Mitchell.

“It’s the reason I still have a son.”

For more information on the program, check out the site HERE.


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