Rotary hears of service dog training for veterans

Published 8:22 pm Tuesday, January 27, 2015

This week Bainbridge Rotarians heard Dan West, president of Honor Sentinels, tell of a collaboration with Beth Eck of the Bainbridge-Decatur County Humane Society to train shelter dogs to act as service dogs for returning veterans who have been diagnosed with post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and/or traumatic brain injuries.

The two are planning to receive training and certification in New Mexico to identify appropriate dogs, match them with a veteran and provide the necessary training.

Honor Sentinels is a riding group of friends, mostly veterans of war, who have banded together to benefit veterans, children and the Humane Society.  It was founded locally in August 2014 and already another chapter has been formed in Hickory, N.C. It is described as a Christian based organization with no dues, whose main goal locally is to provide support to Bainbridge and Decatur County.

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Currently they are providing cycle escort to wounded warriors. They have also conducted some poker runs to benefit the local Humane Society.

West said of the 2.3 million American veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, 20 percent have PTSD. This equates to 460,000. Of those suffering from these emotional problems, 50 percent never seek treatment.

Each day, 22 veterans take their own lives in 48 states. The figures are not kept by California or Texas, both large population states, which would undoubtedly raise the figures even higher if they kept track.

West said it is their goal to provide service dogs to the local veterans who may be suffering from the symptoms of panic attacks, anxiety, depression, flashbacks, agoraphobia, irritability, associated with PTSD.

West said that while Congress is currently studying the effects a service dog has on a vet, it has been documented that a dog serves as a good companion, going with the Vet wherever he or she goes, giving comfort and ease from anxiety.

They plan to supply the dogs free from our local shelter, which took in 1938 stray dogs last year. Once training begins, the dogs cannot return to the shelter, so the group is looking for a building to house the dogs during training until such time as the veteran is able to adopt them. Plans are to work with four veteran/dog teams at a time.

To learn more about Honor Sentinels, visit their website: Or contact Beth Eck at the local Humane Society.