Local service dogs headed to homes of veterans with PTSD

Local service dogs headed to homes of veterans with PTSD (KATU News photo)

Seven of our nation’s veterans are about to get a new best friend, thanks to a local organization Northwest Battle Buddies.

Before the shops open up, among the mall walkers, you may sometimes catch dog walkers at the Vancouver Mall. But they are not any ordinary canines. They are highly trained, specialized service dogs for people like Brian Williams.

"She's my best friend,” Williams said, looking down at his golden retriever named Reveille. She is named for the morning bugle call, and she has changed Williams’ life. The Army veteran served eight years and spent 15 months in Iraq from 2004 to 2005.

"We went in right at the end of the first year, all the second, and going into the third," he said.

Like so many, he came home with internal battle wounds: Post Traumatic Stress Disorder

"I really like to just hide from the world. That's just how I was, but now she gives me a sense of purpose,” Williams said.

Shannon Walker with Northwest Battle Buddies says the group has given 38 service dogs to 38 American heroes.

"Because I love my freedom. And my dad was a Korean War veteran and he taught me that freedom wasn't free," Walker said.

Walker adopts dogs from shelters and she and a slew of volunteers train them for months to become companions for veterans. Then the vet and their 'Battle Buddy' will spend six weeks together in training. Each dog is worth about $25,000 so she relies heavily on donations and fundraising, and money out of her own pocket.

"What we do matters and it saves lives and it's necessary what we do," Walker said.

Seven dogs are now about to meet their new best friend.

"They're going to be filled with joy, they're going to have happiness, “ Williams says of the veterans. “They're... they just don't know what they're in for.”

Then he came up with the word he was searching for.

"It's one word, and it's hope," Williams says.

Northwest Battle Buddies is having its annual fundraiser on Saturday night. If you want to help or if you are interested in learning more about the organization, click here.