PAALS places service dogs with soldiers and veterans with combat-related injuries, whether they aid with the mental, physical, or combination of disabilities.
The dogs trained to assist physically wounded soldiers and veterans are able to assist by turning lights on and off, tugging open doors, picking up dropped objects and returning them safely to their partner’s lap, retrieving a phone or alerting for help in an emergency and assisting their partner to safely get-up after a fall by briefly bracing. These dogs are also able to prevent or alleviate the stress of a current anxiety attack brought on by PTSD or a TBI by reacting to their handler’s body language and/or cue to lean on a certain area of the body, thereby relieving anxiety. They act as both a social bridge and interval by being a topic of conversation to engage the handler with the public, but still a physical protection of their space. For those who have a strong startle response, their service dog is taught a backwards-“heel” and can literally watch the person’s back, alerting them to an unseen approacher.
Beyond training, the dog requires care and routine that in turn will enforce responsibility on their handler’s part. The cost of a service dog is covered neither by private nor government insurance or disability benefits programs. In an effort to honor veterans and police officers who have already served us the Rob’s Best Friend Fund is set apart specifically to provide a dog at no charge to a person who has been wounded, be it physical or mental, in the service of our country.
Veterans who wish to apply for a PAALS Service Dog can find more information and links to the client applications for various types of service dogs at this link. Veterans who would prefer to be considered for Veteran’s Important PAALS (VIP) dog rather than a full-fledged service dog can find more information about the VIP program and the VIP application at this link.