Service dogs for Wisconsin veterans support mental health

Service dogs can offer support and even help change a veteran's quality of life. Two organizations participated in Paws for a Cause Tuesday, Dec. 7, offering service dogs to 16 veterans across the country, including two in Wisconsin. 

For army veteran Andrew Sabin, some days are good, while others can be difficult.

"I have PTSD from my time in Iraq, and part of that is, it’s hard to go out in public without feeling the need to carry a firearm and protect myself and my child because I always have that feeling of being attacked," said Sabin.

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One way to reduce that anxiety is a service dog. That’s something Sabin has wanted since his return home. Fairway Mortgage, in collaboration with the American Warrior Initiative and Custom Canines introduced Sabin to his new dog, Harmony, on Tuesday morning.

"They’re going to train the dog for me," said Sabin. "It’s going to take like, eight months to a year, and then I’m going to start working with them to try and integrate the dog into my daily life."

Andrew Sabin and Harmony

Army veteran Kirsten Lyons purchased her dog, Remi, a couple of years ago. On Tuesday, she learned all of the expenses for Remi’s training to become a certified service dog would be covered.  

"Well, I have PTSD, and if you know anything about PTSD, it’s different for everybody and how they experience it," said Lyons. "One of my issues was always going out in public, going to anywhere crowded."

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Lyons is a mother of five, and Remi is already helping her do the things she doesn’t want to miss.

"With Remi, now, I’m able to do things like go to my kids’ concerts, go to take a walk outside, whereas before, I would try to do my exercises indoors and whatnot and didn’t feel confident enough to be outside," said Lyons.

Kirsten Lyons with Remi

As their training gets underway, Remi and Harmony will also wear a patch in honor of a fallen service member.

By the end of this year, the program will award 100 service dogs to veterans in need.

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