BRECKSVILLE, Ohio - Many veterans returning home from war have an incredibly difficult time re-adjusting to civilian life. Many isolate themselves feeling like they don't fit in. A local man started a service dog program called "Wags 4 Warriors" to take away the struggle at no cost to the veteran.
Sofie was one week from being destroyed at a kennel, Radar one day. Frank and Tyler both spent six years dealing with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. They were like zombies, overmedicated and taking therapy that wasn't working well. Match the dog with the vet and it's like magic.
"They are both rescuing each other, we're rescuing one from a kennel and one out of their mind," said Frank Delorenzo, the founder of wags for warriors.
"They can pull us out of flashbacks without freaking us out, you know they can wake us from nightmares and lay on our legs and let us know we are in a safe place," said Delorenzo.
To date they have placed 154 dogs with veterans willing to spend a year in training. They have had great success. One marine would not get off the couch or even look at Frank. After a lot of convincing he got him to training with a dog. Two years later he is a dog trainer.
"To take a veteran that was rock bottom, he describes it as being rock bottom to being able to perform in daily life; he is helping other veterans now," said Delorenzo.
Tyler lost three from his platoon in Iraq. He was forced out of work after coming home so he was pretty far down. He got his dog Radar two years ago.
"I got a dog here that I can pretty much say anything to, I don't have to worry about any negative feedback, I mean for him it is unconditional love," said Tyler Bales, a disabled veteran.
The service dogs are licensed just like other guide dogs. These guys still have battles, people’s misperceptions
"We don't look disabled, doesn't mean we're not, there are invisible wounds," said Bales.
"Just because we don't look disabled with our dogs doesn’t mean we don't have a disability," said Delorenzo.
Both men say it's important to choose your words wisely around a veteran, because there are many triggers that can bring back bad memories. They say the dogs are good listeners and really help them settle down.
For more information see the "Wags 4 Warriors" web site: http://www.wags4warriors.org/