Retired Lance Cpl. Brian Callahan was suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder until he came across Operation Delta Dog. He credits the program with saving him.
Massachusetts-based Operation Delta Dog takes shelter dogs and trains them to “work as service dogs with local veterans who are suffering with TBI and PTSD.”
Callahan told WBZ-TV that before Operation Delta Dog he was “very anxious, very nervous especially at night."
"I couldn’t do crowds. I couldn’t do restaurants or anything like that," Callahan added. "I suffered from night terrors. I heard something in the house and have to search the house.”
How did the veteran's life change?
Now Callahan feels like his life has turned around for the better, and he gives all the credit to his service dog, Maggie.
“She’s given me back my family. I get to go out with the kids,” he said.
His wife, Alisha Callahan, said that the program has made their situation “100 times better.”
What about other veterans?
Callahan is not alone. Operation Delta Dog’s website lists testimonials from other veterans who suffered from PTSD before these rescue dogs changed their lives. There are other organizations that provide similar programs, but the number of veterans in need of help is still staggeringly high.
WBZ reported that in Massachusetts and New Hampshire, some 100,000 vets suffer from traumatic brain injury or PTSD.
According to the Operation Delta Dog Facebook page:
Every 80 minutes, one U.S. veteran commits suicide. Here in Massachusetts, that works out to approximately 120 veteran suicides each year. Meanwhile, our animal shelters are overflowing with unwanted animals: Nearly 50,000 dogs wind up homeless in Massachusetts' animal shelters every year. Operation Delta Dog works to tackle both of these problems at the same time by choosing the best canine candidates from shelters and training them to bring comfort and assistance to local vets with PTSD and brain injury. The dogs get the homes they need, and the veterans get the help they deserve!
How much training does each dog go through?
Each dog undergoes 12 weeks of full-time training before being assigned to a veteran, then follow-up training that continues for an additional 12 to 18 months. The intensive training and preparation each dog goes through costs the nonprofit about $25,000 each, but the veterans get the service for free.
WBZ general assignment reporter Katie Brace announced that she is running in the Boston Marathon to benefit this organization.