Soldier ON's clients are veterans who have been certified as having debilitating Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and/or Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) by the Veterans Administration (VA). All of our veterans have a disability rating of over 50%. In most cases our veterans are rated by the VA as being unemployable. It is important to note that in many cases our veterans have additional disabling physical issues.
PTSD and TBI are medical conditions which are life-long. One is not "cured" of PTSD or TBI. Rather, Soldier ON's veterans are taught how to use a service dog to help mitigate their symptoms on a 24/7 basis.
You cannot simply give a trained service dog to one of our veterans and say "good luck". Our veterans' physical and/or mental disabilities manifest, from a delivery of services perspective, as learning disabilities and constrains such as short term memory loss, severe pain and, inability to focus.
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Since November of last year (2015), Soldier ON Canine Program has made great strides. We have been offered hundreds of dogs and puppies. We did not accept most of these “sweet dogs” into the program because of their breed or their age.
We can’t accept any of the so-called bully breeds. No Rottweiler’s. No pit bulls. No Dobermans or Chows. The military establishment simply doesn’t allow them. And, we really don’t want a service dog that might instill fear in the public at large just because of their looks. We want to encourage positive social interaction between the public and our veterans.
We also don’t take dogs who are too young or too old. We won’t accept a puppy that is 6 weeks. We’d like them to be at least 8 weeks. On the other hand, we don’t take dogs over 2 years of age.
Over the last 12 months we’ve evaluated over 50 dogs. We have a 3-page form we fill out on every dog. During the evaluation we drop things. We entice them to take a treat from us. We look for both behavioral and temperament issues. We want to make sure they have some drive, but not too much. We are looking for willingness to work without being too exuberant. They have to want to be with people.