CHELSEA, Okla. — For many U.S. Military Veterans, PTSD service dogs provide life-changing benefits. Dustin Parker, an Army Veteran in Chelsea, has seen that firsthand through his service dog, Sissy.
"She has saved my life," says Dustin.
He adds the Great Pyrenees mix who status loyally by his side, helped him get his life back. "I have a lot of health issues, and I do have a lot of mental issues because of my service in Afghanistan."
His wife Anne Parker says, "He came back a different person, just really different... and having a service dog has kind of calmed him down."
Mr. Parker adds. "Sissy helps me out; she'll do covers. She'll do seizure detection; she does psychiatric seizures and a variety of other mental health. She's just great."
The Parkers' personal story led them to open Saving Souls K9 Foundation, a non-profit providing free service dogs to local veterans.
"Normally, when someone needs a service dog, there's a long waiting list; it's 3-4 years out. So we wanted to get one started, so we can start helping more people," says Anne.
Saving Souls K9 Foundation is believed to be the only non-profit of its kind in Rogers County. Commander Tommy Sellers with Disabled American Veterans says the service dogs would be a blessing.
"We've got to help these vets as much as we can, you know, and this is another way we might be able to do that," adds Sellers.
Saving Souls K9 Foundation has 15 dogs in training, many of them rescue animals. The dogs undergo intensive training that runs anywhere from 8 months to a year. Saving Souls K9 Foundation tells me all the dogs will be ADA certified and also registered as "Canine Good Citizens" with the American Kennel Club.
Now the search is on for interested and qualified veterans. "We have to have a doctor's note from either a psychiatrist, a therapist, etc., stating that they need a service dog," says Dustin.
Since the foundation is new, donations are critical. Dustin currently funds the effort with his VA check. He said, "It's just invaluable; you can't put a price on it. If I didn't have my animal with me, I'd be lost. We hope to make people happy and change a lot of lives, a lot of veterans' lives."
The American Veteran Motorcycle Club #122 is holding a Poker Run on May 14 at American Legion Post 141 to benefit Saving Souls K9 Foundation. If you'd like to learn more about the event and the charity, click here.