The 4th of July always serves as a reminder of how fortunate we are to live in a nation that places such a high premium on freedom, liberty and service. This, the most patriotic time of year, provides us an opportunity to celebrate our national pride, gather with family and friends, and remember those who gave the ultimate sacrifice for all of us. We should, and many of us do, also take time out of the celebrations and hoopla to thank those who served in our nation’s military and safeguarded our freedoms. The sacrifices borne by the men and women who volunteer to protect our way of life are immense, and Nevada Humane Society is committed to doing our part to support these patriots, especially those wounded in the call of duty.

It may appear that most of the programs at Nevada Humane Society are geared solely toward animals – just dogs and cats even. In reality, during the past year we have housed cats, dogs, horses, cows, pigs, llamas, alpacas, rabbits, guinea pigs, rats, mice, ferrets, birds, chinchillas, gerbils, hamsters, and even a rodent called a degu. Moreover, many of NHS’ programmatic elements and much of our development is focused on the people, especially the families who reside in Northern Nevada. While all of our programs have a pet tilt (we are Nevada Humane Society after all), much of our focus is on enriching the lives of people living in our community. Pets are, quantitatively so, a quality of life issue. All of the above was on our minds when we developed our G.I. DOGS program two years ago.

G.I. DOGS is a NHS initiative of which we are incredibly proud and one that is particularly close to my heart. This program matches wounded warriors who have been diagnosed with PTSD or TBI (Traumatic Brain Injury) with rescue dogs. Once a match has been made, veterans and their new pets undergo an extensive and rigorous training program–led by a nationally recognized trainer who is himself a veteran of the Marine Corps–through which the dog transitions to a certified service animal. The dogs are specifically trained to assist the veterans with issues related to their diagnosis.

I am sure I don’t have to detail the devastating effects of PTSD and/or TBI or the tremendous scope of the problem. According to Sandro Galea, a physician, epidemiologist and professor at Columbia University, “We are at the cusp of a wave of PTSD.” According the Veteran’s Administration, there are over 650,000 veterans suffering from service-related PTSD today. Some staggering statistics: 18,000 veterans take their lives every year; every 65 minutes a veteran commits suicide; 1 in 5 suicides in America are that of a veteran. We hope that G.I. DOGS can continue to be a service to those who served us and can play a small part in rolling back this heartbreaking tide.

The power of this program is summed up in a story told to me by G.I. DOGS Program Director Mitch Schneider. A participating veteran, who wishes to remain anonymous, recounted his journey through the G.I. DOGS succinctly but poignantly. He said that prior to entering the program he thought about suicide each and every morning. Since getting his service dog, he has not had suicidal thoughts once. This program changes and saves lives.

Events that help animals:

50 Shades of Spay Beginning this month, residents of 89431 may have their personal pet dogs spayed or neutered for a discounted fee of just $20 at the Nevada Humane Society Clinic, thanks to funding sponsored by PetSmart Charities®. Call 775-856-2000 ext 333 to make an appointment today.

Duck Race and Festival August 24, join the fun at Nevada Humane Society’s Annual Duck Race. Join us at Wingfield Park in Reno for a day of family fun and the chance to win great prizes, a cash jackpot and our Grand Prize, a Ford Fiesta generously donated by Dick Campagni’s Carson Auto Group! To adopt a duck visit www.nevadahumanesociety.org today!

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