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Ponte Vedra veteran thrilled for chance to visit theme park with help from service dog

K9s For Warriors adjusts for COVID-19 but continues training amid pandemic

PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. – A Ponte Vedra Army veteran who recently graduated from the K9s For Warriors training program with his new service dog, Chris, is looking forward to taking his son to a theme park.

Gabriel P., who suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder from his military service, said he hasn’t been able to go to a theme park since moving to Florida because of his fear of crowds and public places.

“I still have issues like when I go out places, I always feel nervous or feel like I’m not in control but now when I go places I mostly, think about keeping Chris obedient and keeping him by my side so that takes my mind off other things,” he said.

KNOW A VETERAN NEED SUPPORT?: Here’s the application for K9s for Warriors

K9s For Warrior paired Gabriel with Chris, who had already completed formal service canine training. Chris is a specially trained standard poodle. He helps Gabriel deal with his PTSD.

Amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the nonprofit’s training program has been amended to comply with CDC guidelines, implementing new sanitizing and PPE protocols for all staff and warriors.

Along with the other members of their class, Gabriel and Chris trained in public every day wearing PPE, received instruction on matters of service dog access, dog health care and more, and established a bond that would facilitate Gabriel’s healing from military-related trauma, the charity explained.

“The rate of veteran suicide in our country is unacceptable,” said Rory Diamond, K9s For Warriors CEO. “These are the people who volunteered their lives so that Americans can enjoy their everyday independence. But PTSD steals their independence, and worst of all, suicide steals their lives. K9s For Warriors is here to give both back to them through a new, loyal battle buddy – a service dog.”

K9s For Warriors is a national nonprofit that procures eligible shelter dogs and trains them to be service dogs to mitigate symptoms of PTSD, Traumatic Brain Injury, and/or Military Sexual Trauma for service members and veterans.

It operates from two facilities in North Florida that procure and train the canines, pair them with an incoming veteran, then train the veteran and canine pair together. After three weeks with his or her new service dog, the veteran has learned how to reintegrate into society and, most importantly, reduce the potential for suicide.


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