K-9's and veterans: saving each other

By  | 

ALACHUA, Fla., (WCJB) -- Men and women who served in the military often just want a peaceful night's sleep when they come home. But sleeping, sharing a meal, and taking part in once-easy activities can become difficult.

In North Central Florida, there is a place that offers solutions. It's not a medical treatment or program - this solution has a wagging tail and a comforting smile.

K-9's for warriors was founded in 2011, and since then, 445 graduates have walked out with service dogs. This organization saves dogs from kill shelters, meanwhile saving veterans from themselves.

In a world filled with chaos, our veterans can find themselves lost...with problems they've never faced before.

"I was a suicidal mess...I have a problem going out by myself... I have a problem with anxiety...I have a problem sleeping at night...I would literally throw up because of my anxiety being so high..." veterans echo each other.

Struggling to find help,

"They don't have any real solutions," said Don Zuzula, an Army veteran, "They just have treatments - and this is a solution."

K-9's for Warriors gives our veterans a chance to find solace, and their families a chance to have a normal life back again.

"He's been such a godsend," Zuzula said.

"As much as he's given me [my life], you know, my independence and my freedom, he's given them their independence and a father back," Zuzula continued.

When a K-9 and a warrior find a special connection,

"I have my battle buddy, and it's like we got this," said Alan Burch, a veteran of the United States Air Force, "we can do this."

The problems veterans like don used to face fade in the presence of a man's best friend.

"You feel alone when you have these problems most of the time, and you're isolated," he said.

Randy Dexter, an Army combat medic veteran and director of K-9's for warriors said "it has helped me be a better husband and father to my three kids...his dedication to me and mine to him is truly unique. There's no better bond than that."

Don says there is a way for every struggling veteran to gain peace.

"They need to look for something like this before it becomes too late," he said.

K-9's for warriors...giving veterans and their rescue dogs a new 'leash' on life.

This organization has graduates from 46 states and from every branch of the military.