We are so happy to have recently become involved with Paws Assisting Veterans (PAVE), a non-profit organization based out of the Portland Oregon area which is “dedicated to training service dogs for veterans with mental and/or physical disabilities and to advance public knowledge of service dogs and the essential roles they play.”
Our particular service dog in training from PAVE is Buddy. Buddy is a young and exuberant Labrador. He has added another element of purpose to the work we do each day with dogs. Also, our own dogs have had to step aside and share our home and attention in order for Buddy to continue his work. They must sense the importance of the project because they all treat him with respect!
Dogs like Buddy will be placed at no charge with disabled veterans with a wide array of disabilities. Many suffer from PTSD and/or traumatic brain injury. Each veteran may require a dog to meet his or her specific needs. All of these dogs are trained to provide support in every imaginable social situation. They must know how to calmly walk through a mall, lay under a table at a restaurant, go to a doctor’s office, etc. All the while they must not be soliciting attention from passersby, a real challenge for retrievers, which constitute a large portion of the service dog population.
Public access skills combined with the ability to perform particular needed tasks qualify the PAVE dogs the status of ADA accepted service dogs.
The PAVE PTSD service dogs for example are trained to:
- Wake the veteran from nightmares
- Redirect the veteran during a PTSD episode
- Put a barrier between the veteran and the public if needed
- Reduce hyper-vigilance through teamwork
- Prevent panic in public
For physical assistance the PAVE service dogs can also be trained pick up items, open doors, push elevator buttons, pull a wheelchair, assist with balance, etc.
PAVE was founded in 2010 by Michelle Nelson, a professor at Linfield College and longtime service dog trainer. Through much experience and study in the field of service dog formation, Dr. Nelson has designed a very precise protocol for raising and training the prospective canine helpers. Her own son serves in the Navy and after returning from a year in Iraq, inspired her to use her expertise to help our men and women returning with issues that make normal life most difficult.
PAVE operates on donations and grants and all puppy raisers work on a volunteer basis. Those who volunteer to raise a puppy for PAVE make approximately an eighteen month commitment. They take the young dog into their home and teach him or her how to live in close proximity with them whether at home, work, or running errands. They receive specific instructions as to how to raise a service dog with constant support if needed. They also must attend trainings and organized outings each month.
Every volunteer has a passion and explanation for their involvement with PAVE. Within our own family of four grown sons, we are grateful that all of them are free to be now raising their own children, unlike so many who never had the opportunity. We are the grandparents of 13 beautiful grandchildren and are saddened that there are others our age who will never have that love in their lives. We feel it our responsibility to share our talents to help those who made it home, but with the scars of war.
Another volunteer family was touched by the death of a local war hero and is dedicating their efforts in his memory. What a wonderful example of responsibility and charity these parents are providing for their children, who are also involved with the raising and training. In this hectic life we live where time is so scarce, these individuals are making a heartfelt sacrifice. Puppy raisers are not necessarily dog experts yet are willing to learn how to help.
Prior to being assigned to his or her veteran for training together, each dog receives extensive final instruction with a PAVE professional trainer.
The reality is that there is such a need for these dogs and so few puppy raisers to initiate the process of the extensive training that ultimately takes a few years. There are veterans in dire need of the love and comfort that only a dog can give as well as the physical support they provide through their excellent training. If you are in the Portland Metro Area and are able to volunteer as a raiser or dog trainer, please consider contacting Paw Assisting Veterans at firstname.lastname@example.org.