Fort Wayne organization trains service dogs for veterans

A Fort Wayne organization known as Our Turn to Serve is training service dogs for veterans with PTSD.

Posted: Nov 4, 2018 8:28 PM
Updated: Nov 5, 2018 6:28 AM

FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WFFT)- A Fort Wayne organization known as Our Turn to Serve is training service dogs for veterans with PTSD. 

Dogs like eight-year-old Lady know when their vest goes on, it's time to work. 

"A lot of it is grounding. She helps with nightmares and things like that," said Steve Thomas, a veteran and Lady's owner. 

Thomas served his country, but was diagnosed with PTSD. After going through some counseling at the VA Hospital, he decided he needed a little extra help, and put in an application for a service dog. 

"She always has your six. I mean, she's constantly there. You just know that someone's there for you," Thomas said. 

Lady was rescued from the SPCA before trainers at Our Turn to Serve made her a service dog, but Thomas said it was Lady who did the rescuing. 

"I'd say we saved each other," he said. 

Mike Rowland, owner and a trainer, said dogs like Lady make all the difference for veterans with PTSD.

While Lady does get some time out of her vest, Rowland encourages everyone to remember service dogs are working, and shouldn't be distracted. 

"Just don't ask to pet, because they are on the job and doing their thing," Rowland said. 

Another dog at Our Turn to Serve, Gunnar, isn't ready to go home with a veteran yet, but Rowland works with him regularly. 

Adopting and training the dogs doesn't come cheap, though. It's costs about $10,000 to get a service dog ready. That's why the organization does fundraisers and looks for help from the community. 

"We're a 501-C3 and all of our funds that we raise go directly to the program," said Vanessa Lauritsen, a board member. 

Through fundraisers and raising awareness of the need for service dogs, veterans like Steve Thomas can lead a normal life. 

"[If I didn't have lady] I'd probably be in the ground," Thomas said. 

If you're a veteran in need of a service dog, or if you'd like to help the organization visit their Facebook page here. 

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