VANCOUVER, Wash. — The nonprofit organization Northwest Battle Buddies has been around for about a decade and since it's start, it has provided over 160 trained service dogs to veterans who struggle with PTSD. Founder Shannon Walker has been a professional dog trainer for around 30 years.
"If I can just adopt dogs out of shelters, I can train them and gift them to American heroes and say thank you for our freedom," Walker said.
Walker said she started Battle Buddies after a veteran asked her for help.
"When a veteran walked into my for-profit business looking for help, looking to have his personal dog trained into a service dog, through that process I saw him change."
Dawan Thomas served in the Navy and the Marines. He's had his service dog Atlas for over a year now.
"He just makes life so much easier," Thomas said. "I don't like to go out in public. He forces me to go out in public."
Thomas said his service dog interrupts his nightmares.
"It's a recurring nightmare and it's actually funny how he does it, he licks my face, and in my dream sequence, the marine I'm with will lick me," Thomas said.
Walker said many of the veterans have post-traumatic stress disorder and service dogs provide comfort. There's a long application process for getting a dog in order to make sure the right match is made based on the veterans personality and lifestyle. Veterans can be on a waiting list for up to a year. By the time the dogs go through training, they are worth about $25,000.
The organization is able to provide the service dogs because of donors.
"I'm happy to say out of the 163 service dogs we have provided, we have not lost one veterans to suicide," Walker said.
If people would like to donate, they can go to the Battle Buddies website.