It's a tragic reality for so many that serve their country. They come home with serious injuries, both physical and mental. Life is forever changed for these men and women whether it's a loss of mobility, a lost limb or PTSD. One local charity, Patriot Service Dogs, is trying to make a difference by giving these veterans a free, permanent helper and a best friend.
Independence, or Indy, is a golden retriever that everyone wants to pet and love on. There's a very good reason you can't, however.
Indy is in training. Veterinarian Dr. Renee Rockefeller has been working with him since he was a puppy.
"We have to teach him how to behave in a public environment and the hard part is trying to teach the public these are working dogs, these are not pets," Rockefeller explained. "Their job is to pay attention to their person." Indy's "person" is a local veteran with PTSD. Indy has been learning all kinds of tricks and tasks so he can help care for this veteran.
"We take him everywhere," Rockefeller said. "We take him to restaurants, we take him to movies, plays, in planes, in cars."
That's because Indy will soon be going everywhere with his new owner. When they first started training Indy, they weren't sure the obstacles the veteran he would be assigned to would be facing. That's why Rockefeller said that Indy is prepared to handle anything.
"I think it offers comfort for different people in different ways," she said. "We've had some people who the dogs wake them up from nightmares. We have some physical disabled people and the dogs pick up stuff off the ground, open the doors, shut doors."
Indy is even trained to sense when his owner is uncomfortable. He knows tricks to get him to a place he will feel more at ease. This future constant companion was graciously donated to Patriot Service Dogs along with one of his litter mates. He will make an amazing gift for someone who sacrificed to serve.
"We are trying to give back to people who have helped us so much," Rockefeller said. "He's very well suited for what he's going to do and I'm excited for him to get with his new owner."
If you want to get involved with Patriot Service Dogs, they need everything from puppy trainers, food donations and other supplies. You can call them at (904) 777- 1371 or visit their website www.patriotservicedogs.org.