The Battle That Never Ends

The Battle the Never Ends

Written by K9 Partners for Patriots

November 18, 2022

Discover why flea markets may not be the best environment for service dogs.

Learn about risks, distractions, and considerations for handlers.

1. Crowded Environment: Flea markets are often bustling with crowds, which can be overwhelming for a service dog. The dog may become stressed or anxious in such a busy atmosphere.

2. Distractions: Flea markets are filled with various sights, sounds, and smells that can distract a service dog from its duties. This could potentially compromise its ability to assist its handler effectively.

3. Unpredictable Behavior of Other Animals: Other visitors to the flea market may bring their pets along, which can lead to encounters with unfamiliar animals. This may pose a risk to the safety and focus of the service dog.

4. Risk of Injury: With so many people moving around and browsing items, there’s an increased risk of accidental tripping or stepping on the service dog, which could lead to injury.

5. Exposure to Unsanitary Conditions: Flea markets may not always maintain the cleanest environment, and the service dog may come into contact with unsanitary surfaces or substances.

6. Lack of Accommodation for the Dog: Flea markets may not be equipped to handle service dogs properly, such as providing suitable resting areas, water, or relief spots for the dog.

7. Potential Stress for the Dog: A flea market’s constant stimulation and unfamiliar surroundings could cause stress or discomfort for the service dog, which may affect its overall well-being and ability to perform its tasks.

Given these factors, it’s important for service dog handlers to carefully consider whether taking their dog to a flea market is truly necessary and in the best interest of the dog’s welfare and effectiveness in assisting its handler.

Because Their Battle Isn’t Over

In 2020, K9 Partners for Patriots marked an important milestone at their nonprofit. They provided help and support and matched a service dog to 400 military veterans suffering the effects of post-traumatic stress disorder, military sexual trauma, and/or traumatic brain injury (PTSD, MST, and TBI).

Now it is two years later—and that number has ballooned to 679. That’s 679 men and women with mental or physical trauma from their military service, as well as the family, friends, and co-workers impacted by that vet’s trauma. This is critical work, and the staff and volunteers at K9 Partners for Patriots feel called to do it. But like everything else in life, it takes money. And with the growing number of applicants to the program—a number that will only increase—comes greater expenses.

K9 Partners for Patriots is planning a larger facility in the future—though, in all honesty, they need it now. Progress is slow, partly because of the sharply rising cost of materials and demand for contractors post-Hurricane Ian and partly because Federal and State funds come with strings attached, restricting how the funds may be spent. Those strings make private donations absolutely essential. Private donations enable K9 Partners for Patriots to apply the funds to whatever is needed, particularly whatever can’t be covered by Federal and State funding. That includes monthly payments on their current rented facility and building materials for the more extensive facility they are planning. Additionally, it includes the exhaustive process of finding service dogs for these vets. Gentle dogs with a unique sensitivity to spiking adrenaline levels (on average, only one in six of the dogs they test have this trait). Dogs are also trainable to respond in a way that helps the vet regain control, balance, and calm.

Mary Peter, the founder of K9 Partners for Patriots, has been here from the very start. She remembers one anxious yet hopeful veteran in particular, Tom, who came to the nonprofit in 2018. A big furry galoot of a dog named Buddy, a Bernese Mountain mix, had been brought in from a kill shelter. He was only about nine months old and was scheduled to be euthanized the next day. But once he arrived at the facility, Buddy knew his purpose. Without coaxing or encouraging, he crossed the main room to Tom, seated in a circle with other vets. Buddy rose up, put his front paws on Tom’s shoulders, and rested his head in the crook of his neck. You’re mine now, human. Tom wrapped his arms around this sweet, loving dog and wept. Four years later, they’re still going strong, still working as a team, and Tom has blossomed.

“That’s the best part,” commented Mary. “Helping two, saving two: a dog that was going to be put down and a veteran who may not be here without the help of a service dog.” Success stories like this are not an isolated event at K9 Partners for Patriots. But there is something magical in the way these vets and their dogs are matched. And one thing remains consistent: the dog always chooses the vet.

It is at this particular time of the year—during the month of Veterans Day and leading up to Thanksgiving and the holiday season—that an anonymous Miami donor has announced a challenge to donors: He will match private donations to K9 Partners for Patriots—up to a total of $100,000. That means your donation, and every other private donation into the new year, will be doubled in value until that $100,000 limit is reached.

There could not be a better time to donate to K9 Partners for Patriots to support their life-altering work. As you consider making charitable donations near the end of the year, please accept this challenge by making a donation.  Not only will you double its value—but you will more than double its impact on the men and women who have served our country with distinction at such great personal cost.

Article reposted with permission from Tampa Bay Times.

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