ROCKWALL, TEXAS – Colonel Keith Young, U.S. Army (Ret.), Alice Crosby and service dog Spots held the attention of guests at the May 12th meeting of Friends of the Rockwall County Library. Young and Crosby are volunteer trainers for Patriot PAWS, a 501(c)3 non-profit whose mission is to provide service dogs to assist disabled veterans.
After introducing Ms. Crosby, a retired service member who is on the list to receive a service dog, Colonel Young briefly covered the history of Patriot PAWS. Executive Director Lorie Stevens founded organization in 2005 when she was asked by VA officials to train dogs to help disabled veterans.
Service dogs provide services to disabled veterans, whether it involves mobility issues with loss of limbs, or those with less visible impairments such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Stevens initially trained and placed eight dogs in three years.
By 2009 there were 94 Patriot PAWS dogs around the continental United States. Currently there are 64 dogs in training, and 6 puppies 8-12 weeks old are with “puppy raisers.” In addition to 113 people who work as trainers and in other volunteer positions, 21 families have taken dogs into their homes to help socialize and acclimate the animals to functioning in a home setting.
According to a 2014 New York Times article, in 2008 Christina Crain, then chairwoman of the Texas Board of Criminal Justice, heard about the program and recommended it to the state prison system, thinking it would improve morale behind bars and cut down on recidivism. At two women’s units at the Gatesville Prison, volunteers work to train service dogs. These women and their animals live in a dormitory like setting with their animals. While the goal is to provide service dogs for veterans, the inmates learn a skill that makes them employable and productive members of society upon their release from prison.
Service dogs are provided at no cost to disabled veterans. For more information on how to apply for a
service dog or how you can help Patriot PAWS, visit PatriotPaws.org
Friends of the Rockwall County Library has adjourned for the summer; however our Program Committee is working to find equally interesting programs beginning in September 2015. Friends works to promote the interest and welfare of the Library and profits from their various fundraising events supplement the County library budget, paying for special children’s programming, adult literacy programs, subscriptions and other items.
For more about the organization, see http://www.friendsofrockwallcountylibrary.com/about.html and like us on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/friendsrockwall
Colonel Keith Young demonstrates one of the 50 verbal commands each Patriot PAWS service dog must master during their training.
Submitted by Nell Welborn
Friends of the Rockwall County Library