Inspired by a story about PTSD trained dogs on TV, Pam Barnett relocated her business and created Paws Assisting Wounded Warriors.
Barnett has been in the dog business for over 30 years. Last year she started training dogs for veterans at her Pack Leader Academy in Palos Heights.
Panzer was the first dog she trained. He is the service dog for 27-year-old former Army Sergeant Brad Schwarz, who served two tours in Iraq.
"I was hit by roadside bomb March, 2008," he said. "Most of my physical injuries, I had some experiences there that led towards my TBI and also my Post Traumatic Stress Disorder"
In order to train Panzer, Barnett needed specific information.
"He gave us a list of things that he needed the dog to do to perform for him specifically and we went from there, and we started teaching them the tasks," Barnett said. "Brad needed a dog that would pick up his cane automatically and stuff like that and to brace like really help him off a chair or off of the ground."
Panzer helps Schwarz deal with depression.
"I was having nightmares, I was depressed. I was suicidal," he said. "How the dog helps related to my PTSD, if I'm having nightmares in the middle of the night he'll wake up. He sits up and nudges me, and lets me know that he's there and that everything's okay."
For veterans with PTSD, customized training is required.
"There are 18 tasks we teach them now, from obedience commands to service," Barnett said.
Since Barnett got into training dogs for vets, a few dogs have been donated. But they need more space for dogs to stay and train because this kind of service is in demand.
"There's just not enough dogs, not enough time, not enough people being able to train them, but I really believe now that the government is starting to get into this," she said. "I really believe that it's going to make a huge difference once the knowledge gets out there to what the needs is for these veterans and how the dogs are helping them."
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