General Questions regarding Soldier’s Best Friend
What is your mission?
Soldier’s Best Friend provides U.S. military veterans living with combat-related Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) or Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) with Service or Therapeutic Companion Dogs, most of which are rescued from local shelters. The veteran and dog train together to build a trusting relationship that saves two lives at once and inspires countless others.
Is SBF a not-for -profit charity?
Yes, SBF is a 501(c)3 tax exempt public charity.
When did SBF begin?
SBF was incorporated with the state of Arizona in January 2011 as a non-profit corporation. We began our first pairings and trainings in May 2011.
Where do your dogs come from?
SBF is devoted to helping the pet overpopulation problem. We will be involved with rescue groups and shelters throughout Arizona, such as the Arizona Humane Society, to acquire most of our dogs. If the veteran has their own personal dog and it meets certain training criteria, we will also accept that dog for the program.
How much will your program cost the veteran?
There will be absolutely no fees to the veteran during the placement and training period. We are committed to that.
The only costs to the veteran would be transportation, housing and their own meals if they have to relocate to Arizona during the training period.
All of our dogs will be spayed, neutered, vaccinated and receive all recommended preventative medications prior to placement. If you are placed with a rescue dog, all veterinary services, most food and supplies will be at no charge to the veteran during the training process. Dogs owned by the veteran will be offered veterinary services at a reduced rate during training.
Following graduation, the veteran will be responsible for food costs and basic care while reduced veterinary fees will be offered through a group of volunteer veterinary hospitals in Arizona.
Can I use my own dog for training?
In some cases, yes. We will evaluate your dog for certain criteria to determine if it will be accepted into our training program. Some examples of characteristics of your dog we will NOT accept are:
- Aggressive behavior of any type towards people or other animals.
- Wolf hybrids will not be accepted for training as service dogs.
- Extreme anxiety or nervousness.
- Under age of 10-12 months depending on breed and maturity.
Why do I need a Service Dog or a Therapeutic Companion Dog?
A Service or Therapeutic Companion Dog can help you recover and adjust back into civilian life easier if you experience:
- Panic attacks
- Bad Nightmares
- Agoraphobia (anxiety in crowded places or places that are difficult to escape )
- Sleep disturbance
- Suicidal thoughts
- Reclusive behavior
What kind of tasks would my dog be trained to do and how is that going to help my symptoms of PTSD or TBI?
The following are a few examples of what a Service or Therapeutic Companion Dog could do for you:
- Travel beside you in public places such as restaurants, grocery stores, buses, etc. helping to ease any anxiety you may experience. **For service dogs only, in accordance with the Americans with Disability Act (ADA).
- When in a crowded environment your dog will stay between you and any person approaching too close to you, creating a calm, yet friendly, “barrier”.
- Helping to deal with several personal or public issues that may suddenly arise. An example might be awakening from a nightmare and finding your dog calmly resting next to you.
- Naturally trying to redirect your thoughts elsewhere should your dog sense fear, anxiety, etc.
- Help aid you in unstable walking situations
- Picking objects up for you off the floor
Does a Service Dog or Therapeutic Companion Dog really help the veteran’s symptoms of PTSD?
Yes! Anecdotal studies show that up to 80 percent of patients are showing improvement. Some cases report that the need for medication has been reduced or even eliminated.
How long will the training take before my dog and I graduate?
Generally for a Certified Service Dog, it’s approximately 9 months. This includes: twice-a-week training for six months, with supplemental mentoring sessions to follow.
For a Therapeutic Companion Dog, training will last 3 to 5 months.
Do I need to be an Arizona resident to be accepted into the program?
No! We consider all active military and veterans of any U.S. military branch for acceptance. However, you will need to be in Arizona for the training sessions AND be responsible to find housing during the training period.
Do you have PTSD or TBI therapists advising you on the needs of the individual veteran?
Yes! During the application process, we will ask you and your therapist (if you are currently seeing one) specific task needs for your service dog. We are also advised by two practicing therapists with close to 50 combined years of veteran PTSD treatment experience on specific tasks to train into your dog.
Will the dog be fostered during its training?
No! Once the dog is paired with it’s handler, they live together from that point on. We feel this helps emphasize the human-animal bond and accelerates the training process by having the veteran involved in all training activity.