Through a partnership between numerous local groups, veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder in Grayson and surrounding counties may now qualify to receive a service dog.
American Legion Post 81 Commander Shane Thomason has, for the past three months, been working alongside Veterans Affairs (VA) Healthcare Center in Clarkson, as well as local service dog trainers to coordinate a program to pair veterans suffering from severe PTSD with puppies who will be trained as service dogs.
Thomason said Dr. Joseph Petrocelli and Tammy Nugent approached him a number of months ago regarding the project, which American Legion Post 81 membership voted to approve.
Post 81 dubbed the program “K9 Service Dogs for PTSD” and is paying for the puppies’ service training, which costs $2,500 per puppy, Thomason said.
A mental health doctor at the VA clinic in Clarkson is also assisting with the program by recommending veterans most in need of participating in the program—provided the veterans sign release forms allowing their cases to be reviewed by Post 81, Thomason said.
After a veteran is selected for the program, he or she will be paired with a puppy, and the two will attend service dog training together in Leitchfield with Petrocelli and Nugent.
Some services the dogs can provide include picking up keys, turning lights off and on, clearing bedrooms, and going out in public with the veteran, Thomason said.
The first four service dogs will be presented to qualifying veterans—one of whom is from Grayson County and the other three of whom are from surrounding counties—this week, and at least two of them will be presented during a special ceremony on Veterans Day (Wednesday, Nov. 11).
The ceremony will be open to the public and will begin at 7 p.m. at American Legion Post 81, located at 415 Lee Ave. in Leitchfield.
While Post 81 currently must go through a screening process to determine who is most in need of a service dog, Thomason said, the goal is to keep the program moving forward and growing, through fundraising.
To make a donation to the program, visit American Legion Post 81. Donations should be made out to American Legion Post 81 for K9 Service Dogs for PTSD.
For more information about the program and/or how to participate, call American Legion Post 81 at 270-259-6293 and leave a message for Thomason.
Reach Matt Lasley at 270-259-9622, ext. 2015.