Service dogs are an amazing resource to help veterans who struggle with physical or mental disabilities. The dogs’ training, however, can be a difficult task to complete — similar to the extensive training members of the Armed Forces go through while serving in the military. One former Marine K9 handler is using his expertise to help place service dogs with the veterans who need them.
Christopher Baity grew up with dogs and says he joined the Marines with the intention of becoming a dog handler. He was successful in his goal and served in Iraq, and then went to Afghanistan as a contractor. Military dogs are primarily used for finding bombs and drugs, but Baity gained valuable skills he was able to translate into training service dogs.
After his military service, he and his wife, Amanda Causey Baity, founded Semper K9 Assistance Dogs. The organization takes rescued dogs facing euthanasia in shelters and retrains them to help wounded soldiers. The specific tasks the dogs learn depend on the disabilities of their future owners. Dogs going to people with physical disabilities can perform at least three tasks to help their owners with mobility or health issues, and dogs going to help veterans with PTSD or other mental health challenges perform a variety of tasks to help their owners stay calm and present as they go about their day.
Semper K9 is a small but growing organization, and as of 2016, the Baitys both work other jobs and operate the center out of their home. It truly is a labor of love and a way for them to give back to veterans in need. They also train therapy dogs, which stay with professional caregivers to help patients in hospitals or other care facilities, and family support dogs, which provide emotional support to the entire family of wounded veterans. Although each service dog costs approximately $20,000 to train, Semper K9 provides its dogs free of charge to ensure finances are not a barrier to recovery.
Service dogs can vastly improve wounded veterans’ quality of life, and organizations such as Semper K9 are working to match them up with the people who need them. Sign this petition to encourage legislation that allows the VA to help more veterans get life-changing service dogs.
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