COLORADO SPRINGS — A local organization is helping veterans with their physical and mental health needs, and the help is coming from a furry friend with four legs.
Victory Service Dogs is a local nonprofit organization that trains dogs to become service animals. These dogs help local disabled veterans, emergency personnel, first responders and kids in need.
Many local veterans have also found comfort and companionship through their service dogs trained in the program.
“She has given me purpose, every single day, she's given me a companion,” said Steven Salyer, a U.S. Army National Guard veteran.
Salyer has dealt with physical and mental health issues, including PTSD after serving in the military.
“I didn't want to deal with the people, and I didn't understand where all the anger and all the anxiety was coming from,” said Salyer.
Salyer said it was recommended he get a service dog just over two years ago. That's when he got Aurora, who is now three years old, and a graduate of the program at Victory Service Dogs.
“It’s gotten me out from a recluse lifestyle. It's helped me deal with the anger in a much more positive way,” said Salyer.
Steve Corey is a local U.S. Army veteran. Eight years ago, he founded Victory Service Dogs in response to high suicide rates in the veteran community.
“Just seeing all the stories of veterans coming back from the different war zones and not really getting the help that they needed, and I wanted to do something to help those guys. It is a passion of mine,” said Corey, who is also the executive director of the organization.
He knew the comfort and companionship a dog brings, can help veterans get adjusted to civilian life after service. The organization matches dogs to owners, whether it’s a dog that’s been donated to the organization or an animal that’s been rescued.
“From the day we meet them, we figure out what their needs are, and we try to find the perfect dog to match them up,” said Corey.
Corey also mentioned the dogs and their owners get into training programs right away, and there are not on waiting lists which he saw a lot of when he first began the organization. He also mentioned it's a team of mostly veterans helping other veterans.
“We get it, we understand our brothers and sisters, and so we we know how to work with them,” said Corey.
For veterans like Salyer, his service dog is on anger and anxiety alert. Salyer is also now a full-time student again, and he thanks the organization for turning his life around.
“Aurora has given me aid that can't get from a pill. The organization has truly saved my life,” said Salyer.
So far, 100 dogs have been trained to become a service dog through the program. Through weekly classes with a dog trainer, these veteran-dog teams go through specialized training that helps the veteran's specific needs. Training is offered free to veterans.
For more information about Victory Service dogs, click here.
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