Soldier’s Best Friend provides veterans with service dogs

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Soldier’s Best Friend is a nonprofit providing veterans living with combat-related PTSD or Traumatic Brain Injury with service or therapeutic companion dogs, most of which are rescued from local shelters.

Mik Milem, Executive Director, discussed the benefits of the program. Robert “Tiny” Hogan is a U.S. Army veteran participating in the program with his dog Mabel, who joined us to share his experience.

“We help U.S. military veterans that are living with PTSD or Traumatic Brain Injury by pairing them up with a dog, most of whom have been rescued from a local shelter right here in Arizona. They train together for six to nine months until that dog becomes qualified to become a service dog,” Milem said.

Veterans must put in an application and be diagnosed by a therapist in order to participate in the program, Milem said. Dogs with calm temperaments with a desire to work are qualities the group looks for in a companion. Milem said therapeutic companion dogs help veterans within their homes, but service dogs are permitted to go anywhere in public that a person can go too.

Soldier’s Best Friend also strives to make a positive impact on the pet overpopulation problem. The organization is dedicated to pairing and training service dogs with veterans at no cost to the veteran.

Hogan’s dog Mabel is a service dog whom he rescued from the dog pound about a year and a half ago. Mabel underwent a medical examination to make sure she was healthy enough to be a service dog. Hogan said when he saw Mabel he fell for her immediately.

“She was there, and we immediately connected,” Hogan said. Hogan and Mabel trained five days a week for six months, and continue to do more advanced training.

“It’s amazing. It gets me out of the house now. I had never been to a mall in Arizona, and I had been here for almost 17 years. I had to go there to train there because they forced us to go there to Arrowhead Mall,” Hogan said.

Mabel is trained to alert Hogan when a person is coming near him so that he isn’t surprised. She is trained to comfort him when he is feeling anxiety.

Learn more by visiting their website.

Mik Millem, Executive Director, Soldier's Best Friend;
Robert "Tiny" Hogan, US Army veteran

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