The Train a Dog Save a Warrior (TADSAW) program serves the veteran, the family and the community, by providing the warrior with a K-9 rescue ‘Battle Buddy’ and the training and tools needed to become an accredited TADSAW Warrior/Service Dog Team.
TADSAW combines the disciplines of Occupational, Physical, Psychotherapeutic and Spiritual therapy** in a single program designed to re-connect and heal the Veteran over a period of time with the training of a canine Battle Buddy.
Occupational – on job training for a new and different skill
Physical – real time and hands on training, work and experiences
Psychotherapeutic – replacing and/or reducing pharmaceuticals with a holistic approach to intervention
Spiritual – unconditional and nonjudgmental intervention by another party establishing the canine-human bond.
TADSAW additionally provides for the training of a Medical Alert Service Dog for any veteran’s immediate family, the spouse or children, surviving with compassion fatigue, secondary PTSD, or any other mental health issue diagnosed while the veteran was deployed or on active duty.
Whenever possible, TADSAW will evaluate the veteran’s personal dog, because the bond has been established, to determine the dog’s viability to be a service dog candidate. A rescue dog from a shelter or the warrior’s own personal dog, if deemed appropriate in temperament, demeanor, and size, will be evaluated, enter BOOT CAMP, and be trained specific commands for specific needs of a wounded warrior with PTSD. If the veteran needs a dog, TADSAW’s trainers will go to a rescue shelter and evaluate and select an appropriate candidate for the veteran. At that time the process will begin.
TADSAW has found that a great majority of the warriors with PTSD choose a shelter dog because they want ‘to save something’. They may choose a dog with an injury because they have an injury too. They are both healing. They fit together. They are a team.
Veterans often suffering alone, seem to silence themselves because of the stigma still attached to psychological injuries like PTSD. The dog can calm them down and get their minds off of everything going on in their lives by focusing on the dog not themselves.
The program lasts from 15-25 weeks to train the veteran and dog team. The first phase is focused on the skills needed to pass the AKC Canine Good Citizenship course, which is the benchmark standard in obedience for therapy dog work. During the second phase, time is spent socializing the team in dog friendly public places. When the trainer is confident the team is progressing sufficiently, the in-training Public Access work, in areas where only Service Dogs are allowed, begins.
The team will graduate and become accredited by TADSAW when the Public Access Temperament Test is given and the team passes. The team will carry the necessary health certificates and documentation and will be able to accompany the warrior to stores, restaurants, living accommodations, and permitting full access to any and all places the warrior wishes to visit.
These TADSAW SERVICE DOGS have the ability to decrease isolation of the veteran, decrease the needs for many medications, decrease anxiety and panic attacks when in crowded public places, awaken them from nightmares and flashbacks, ‘have their backs’ when necessary, to name but a few.
A short answer as to the why and how…Petting a dog decreases release of cortisol and increases release of oxytocin into the bloodstream. Decreases in cortisol lower blood pressure and facilitate a sense of relaxation, while increases in oxytocin, this same chemical released when a mother nurses her infant, will facilitate a sense of security and well-being.
For veterans with PTSD, it has been documented that a dog helps with emotional regulation. Patients who are very anxious and have anger issues find they can’t work with a dog if they yell. They must have a calm voice. Working with a dog helps build confidence and bridge the gap with strangers. More often than not the response and the bond is immediate.
“The purpose of the Public Access Temperament Test is to ensure that dogs who have public access are stable, well-behaved, and unobtrusive to the public. It is to ensure that the client has control over the dog and the team is not a public hazard.”
The Test Includes:
A female veteran with PTSD has sleep disorders and often awakens to find herself barricaded in her closet, behind duffle bags, with a knife. With her TADSAW SERVICE DOG she is able to sleep. Simply having a dog around allows the veterans to trust the dog to assess the safety of their surroundings, as the dogs have a much keener sensory capacity than people.
For hundreds of wounded veterans, the long walk to recovery is often a lonely one. A long walk is something most dogs love.
Service Animals are legally defined (Americans With Disabilities Act, 1990) and are trained to meet the disability-related needs of their handlers who have disabilities. Federal laws protect the rights of individuals with disabilities to be accompanied by their service animals in public places. Service animals are not considered ‘pets’.
Therapy Animals are not legally defined by federal law, but some states have laws defining therapy animals. They provide people with contact to animals, but are not limited to working with people who have disabilities. They are usually the personal pets of their handlers, and work with their handlers to provide services to others. Federal laws have no provisions for people to be accompanied by therapy animals in places of public accommodation that have “no pets” policies. Therapy animals usually are not service animals.
Companion Animals are not legally defined, but is accepted as another term for pet.
Social/Therapy Animals have no legal definition. They often are animals that did not complete service animal or service dog training due to health, disposition, trainability, or other factors, and are made available as pets for people who have disabilities. These animals might or might not meet the definition of service animals.