Restoring Freedom, Dignity & Independence to Our Wounded Heroes
In 2013, Dogs Helping Heroes (DHH) began with a trained service dog given to an Iraqi War veteran injured by an improvised explosive device (IED) during combat. The veteran experienced post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) symptoms that induced crippling anxiety and panic, restricting his activity away from home. These symptoms also had a significant effect on the entire family. The custom-trained service dog, a Labrador Retriever named Major, mitigated and calmed his anxiety, changing his life. The emotional and physical support of the service dog enabled the restoration of once lost freedom for one of our nation’s heroes.
Dogs Helping Heroes co-founder, David Benson, had 13 years of professional dog training experience, and took a chance with Major. He provided special training to enable Major to alert, protect, support and soothe his hero at home and out in public. David was then witness to an amazing transformation brought by the emotional and physical support of a service dog, thus forming the idea for a non-profit.
Dogs Helping Heroes was taken from concept to reality by the formation of a mission as well as a board. From there, funding, non-profit status and a building passion for helping our heroes catapulted DHH into the future. The organization is supported by a formal board of directors, a substantial volunteer base and the financial support of individual, corporate and foundation giving. Through the success of each hero team, DHH achieves its mission of helping restore lost freedom and peace of mind to Gold Star families, veterans, first responders, and their families.
Collaboration with the Kentuckiana community enables DHH to accomplish its program effectively and efficiently. Our program includes raising funds for the rescuing and training of canines; assessing the service requirements and desires of heroes and their families; and coordinating the relationships between individual heroes and their dogs. Individuals, corporate sponsors and charities generously provide financial support.
DHH selects its canine heroes that best fit the criteria derived from our experience and research from local shelters and rescue organizations. The dogs are boarded, equipped and trained for service. Obedience training includes manners, composure and formal commands. Service training includes at least three tasks required by a disabled hero.
DHH facilitates the rehabilitation process for heroes by assigning an appropriate assistance dog to an individual and his or her caregiver(s). Matched dogs acquire the American Kennel Club’s Canine Good Citizen Award and comply with the American Disabilities Act of 1990.