Local Dog Trainers Give Back to Veterans

K-9 Partners for Patriots is not the typical dog training class—veterans are pairing up with pets to help them enter back into civilian life.

Mary Peter, who has over 30 years of experience as a master dog trainer, founded the program a few years ago to help veterans struggling with PTSD and other brain related injuries.

“People would come for obedience training and I started noticing more and more veterans coming back from combat with a dog trying to get into an obedience class,” said Peter.

Before taking the class, veteran Aurthur Moore found it difficult to complete day-to-day activities.

“I would lay in bed all day, said Moore. “I would stay in the house.”

Having gone through the training program, Moore is inspired to help others by studying to become a dog trainer for veterans.

“I want to help other veterans like they’ve helped me,” said Moore. “It makes me feel good helping other people, it helps me feel good inside.”

166 veterans are in or have gone through the program. Similarly, 55 dogs have been rescued and found a new home.

“90 percent of our funding goes directly to our veterans,” Peter said. “We try to save two—a dog and veteran together.”

For Peter, helping veterans is a gift she feels honored to be a part of.

“To see and honor those who have suffered so much in service to our country—it means everything to me,” said Peter. It’s not a job to me, it’s my passion. I love each and every one of these men and women and it’s an honor to serve them and help them.”

Service dog helps paralyzed student come full circle

For most college students, having a pet of their own would seem like a luxury, but the responsibility of animals mixed with a hectic class schedule could be overwhelming.

For Elizabeth Jernigan, however, her dog Carina was a necessity. Even with aspirations of physician assistant school and a seven-class course load, she can’t imagine doing it without Carina by her side. But perhaps that’s because without Carina, she really couldn’t do it.

After facing unexpected paralysis from the neck down due to her auto-immune disease in 2012, Elizabeth explained that she “needed someone to help [her] with basically everything.” After deciding that a personal aide wasn’t the ideal choice, she applied for a service animal through New Horizons Service Dogs, and waited six long months to get Carina.

Michele Reese has been a puppy raiser for service and guide dogs for several years and has raised over half a dozens dogs. She knows first hand how beneficial and therapeutic these animals can be to the human companions they’re placed with. “They don’t judge,” Reese said. “They love you for who you are, it doesn’t matter if you have a disability.”

Elizabeth has since come full circle in her illness, now able to play and run with Carina whenever she wants. It just goes to show the healing power of these service animals is an amazing thing and now the duo is able to bond on an all-new level, providing equal support for one another everyday.