Fayetteville, AR -- Post Traumatic Stress Disorder isn't an uncommon thing for war veterans to experience upon their return to the United States. One local organization is assisting veterans across Northwest Arkansas with the help of furry friends.
Soldiers for Service Dogs started 3 years ago and is now helping veterans all across Northwest Arkansas who are suffering from PTSD or traumatic brain injuries.
"Having a properly trained service dog provides that unconditional love to our veteran and supports them in ways that other humans can't." Veterans Program Manager for Soldier ON Service Dogs, Elise Burt said.
The organization was started after realizing there was a critical need for service dogs in the area for veterans.
"I've always wanted a service dog because I've been in a wheelchair for a long, long time and the VA wouldn't approve me of one so I didn't know what I was going to do until this came up and I'm like in heaven." Vietnam War Veteran, Jonathan Christopherson, said.
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A dog is a man's best friend, and for veterans home from war who are suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and traumatic brain injury (TBI), a dog just might be a life saver as well.
Angie Pratt, founder of Soldier ON Service Dogs (SOSD), is well acquainted with the benefits injured veterans receive from service dog companions. After a close relative, a marine bomb technician, was injured in Afghanistan and began experiencing the effects of PTSD and TBI, Pratt began researching treatments. She discovered that a service dog could be a great benefit, but there were no service dog organizations in the area. She founded SOSD as a 501(c)(3) organization in September 2014 and set to work providing trained service dogs to local veterans suffering from PTSD and/or TBI at no charge to the veteran.
"People may think they don't know someone with PTSD, Pratt says, "and I'm here to tell - you do. You just may not know it."
SOSD estimates that nearly 1,000 of the 14,000 veterans in Northwest Arkansas who have PTSD and/or TBI would benefit from having a service dog. Service dogs detect seizures, disrupt nightmares, call 911, reduce the need for medication, mitigate anxiety, reduce stress, and even save lives.
But she won't share that sweet face with a stranger on the Bentonville square quite yet. She's in the zone. So is Brittany Vandevort, her 16-year-old trainer.
Spirit has learned to sit and stay, and when a stranger approaches, that's just what she does -- with no aggression. Vandevort, seemingly without thought, offers Spirit a treat for this good behavior.
But once Vandevort says OK, Spirit will jump in that stranger's lap and shower him with puppy dog kisses.
Spirit is a puppy in training for Soldier On Service Dogs, based in Fayetteville. Vandevort will raise and train the dog for about one year "or until she's no longer a puppy," said Angie Pratt, president and executive director of Solider On Service Dogs.
For the second straight summer, thousands trekked to Dickson Street on Sunday to hurtle down a 1,000-foot water slide in support of Soldier On Service Dogs, a nonprofit organization that trains and places highly skilled assistance dogs with Northwest Arkansas veterans for free.
But unlike last year, when the event was organized through Utah-based company Slide the City, Soldier On were ensured more proceeds thanks to shouldering the brunt of organizing the event, according to Angie Pratt, founder and director of Soldier On.
"Do you hear that laughter," said Pratt, pointing to the legion of youngsters, teens and adults careening past the Dickson Street Bookshop and Bordinos Restaurant on inner tube. "We've got 250 volunteers running around here. If that's not community, I don't know what is."
While total proceeds weren't available Sunday, by 2 p.m. the Soldier On merchandise tent had exceeded sales from last year's event, said Denise Bembenek, event coordinator for Soldier On. Nearly 2,000 had already registered and attendance was picking up, Bembenek added. The event lasted from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m.
FAYETTEVILLE (KFSM) -- People got to experience Dickson Street Sunday (Aug. 29) by sliding down on a 1,000-foot water slide for a good cause.
Soldier On Service Dogs, a nonprofit that provides trained service dogs to veterans diagnosed with PTSD or a traumatic brain injury, organized the Dickson Street Slide after holding a similar fundraiser last year through a partnership with Slide the City.
Following the 2015 fundraiser, Soldier On Service Dogs purchased their own 1,000-foot slide, so the nonprofit can hold the Dickson Street Slide event every year.
Theron Lindenmuth, who had served in the Marines for eight years, received a service dog after suffering an arm injury three years ago, but said he was not ready for the challenge of having a service animal.