ESSEX, Vt.- We've all heard of service dogs; seeing eye dogs, for example or those who can detect when a diabetic's blood sugar is low. But a group in Vermont is training its first dog to help veterans deal with post-traumatic stress disorder or PTSD.
Mazie is a rescue dog from South Carolina. She's currently in training to become a service dog with the Blue Star Mothers of Vermont. The nonprofit organization provides help and assistance to veterans in need.
“All the money we raise here stays here, 100% of it,” said Terri Sabens, the Blue Star Mothers of Vermont Pet Coordinator.
She says Mazie will be trained to help veterans deal with PTSD.
“It’s been proven that if a post traumatic veteran has a dog, it doesn't even have to be a service dog- or even a comfort dog. They're 84% less likely to take their own lives and 40% less medication is usually needed,” said Sabens.
Before Mazie is placed with a veteran she has a long road ahead.
“It’s a job the dog has to learn,” said Sabens.
Right now she's learning basic commands with a trainer. Once she's ready Mazie will head off to the Springfield Corrections Facility to be trained by inmates; who went through a careful screening process. That process includes eliminating those with a violent background, essays from the inmates who want to take part, and an interview process.
Sabens says those inmates who will help train Mazie learn to be more responsible, but they also get to enjoy the dogs company.
“At that point they will learn more on turning on and off lights. And waking them up during nightmares and stuff like that,” said Sabens.
Sabens says those skills are especially important for people who suffer from PTSD as nightmares are a common side effect. But along with helping veterans cope with the disorder Mazie will also provide companionship.
“It keeps them busy and it keeps happy and I mean when you wake up in the morning and you've got a little dog like this that wants to lick your face it makes you smile,” said Sabens.
And sometimes a smile is all you need.
Next year as the program expands the organization will be looking for four families to help train four more service dogs.
To learn more about Mazie and the other services offered by the Blue Mothers click here.
If you'd like more information on how to train a dog like Mazie, or how to become a recipient of one, email Terri Sabens at firstname.lastname@example.org.