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Local organization provides dogs for vets in need

Updated: Sunday, March 9 2014, 08:01 PM EDT

By Jessica Guay

Harrison County, OH -

A local organization aims to match service dogs with veterans dealing with post-traumatic stress disorder, a condition that has led to the suicide rate of one veteran every 65 minutes.

The owner of Ohio Valley K9, LLC, Sheila Slezak, started “Dogs 4 Warriors” out of frustration because other programs charge a lot of money for service dogs. She decided to provide the dogs and the training for free to give back to veterans.

“You know, we train them to go to war but we don’t train them to come home and therein lies the problem,” Slezak said.

On Sunday three veterans got ready to take home their new companions: three German shepherds, the first dogs to go out as part of “Dogs 4 Warriors.”

The program started in December 2013 and now they have more than 100 veterans asking for dogs.

The veterans are matched up with a dog, and then they spend two weeks training on their specific conditions before taking them home.

Trevor Armstrong is an 18-year Army veteran who suffers from traumatic brain injury and PTSD. Now he is very happy to have his new friend, Dougie.

“He’s awesome, I mean we’re great companions, we get along very well. He’s a bigger dog, I have balance issues because of my brain injury, and so I wanted a bigger dog to help me with that and so far he’s been perfect,” Armstrong said.

J. Wheeler is a Navy and Army veteran who lost the use of his legs, suffers from traumatic brain injury and is legally blind. Now he has Justice by his side at all times.

“She’s fantastic, she’s a perfect dog for a wounded warrior and her name is Justice. So I mean, it doesn’t get any better than that and basically, she helps me with pretty much everything but the biggest thing so far has been the sleeping, I’m more comfortable,” Wheeler said.

Slezak said the dogs alleviate anxiety and help with hyper vigilance, which causes a person to constantly watch their surroundings.

“It makes you feel more comfortable when we’re going out to places, to have your battle buddy with you and actually right beside you again. That to me is huge, I haven’t been grocery shopping since my injury and a lot of those things you can take your life back with her,” Wheeler said.

The three veterans said Slezak is an angel to all of them and they are thankful for “Dogs 4 Warriors.”

After the three dogs go home with their vets, the next round of veterans will begin to train with their dogs.

“Dogs 4 Warriors” is run solely on donations and fundraisers. They are asking others to give back to the men and women who have served for our country. Visit the website at www.dogs4warriors.org.

Local organization provides dogs for vets in need

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