Veteran Service Dogs Video
At Risk Youth Boot Camp Video
Faithful Friend in the News Video
History: Since 1999 Faithful Friend has taken trained service dogs to visit incarcerated juveniles or at-risk youth facilities. These service animals have been used to improve the lives of troubled teens and to promote discernible change in their behavior. The Faithful Friend program has publicly documented proven results in reducing inmate violence. The program stimulates the desire for better behavior and encourages better study habits with corresponding improvement in educational test scores. The cumulative result of Faithful Friend intervention is reduced recidivism. Faithful Friend has implemented mentoring programs for youth during their incarceration, their time of partial furlough, and their post-adjudication release. Faithful Friend volunteers are interdenominational, and the principles taught are Biblically based.
The new Grayson County K9 Program will place canines with Grayson County youth for the purpose of teaching life skills while also teaching program participants how to socialize and train canines that will be given to combat veterans as service dogs. This program expects to accomplish multiple objectives including the placement of shelter dogs, an increased public awareness of shelter adoption programs, greater public awareness and support of youth programs, reduced recidivism for youth offenders, providing service dogs to wounded veterans, and specifically easing Post Traumatic Stress Disorder symptoms among veterans suffering from that condition. Service dogs may also be trained to alert veterans to pending seizures, diabetic imbalance, and assistance to sight and hearing impairments.
The Grayson County Boot Camp has for some time invited Faithful Friend to conduct their educational program at the facility. Faithful Friend has acted in conjunction with Chaplain Terry Dyer of the Air Chapel. Air Chapel is a 501c(3) offsite facility, closely located to the Grayson County Boot Camp. Air Chapel offers counseling, spiritual enrichment, and family services to inmates (referred to as “students”) while at the Boot Camp and also to their families. Later in 2013, Grayson County will initiate a $125,000,000 expansion of the Boot Camp. The expansion provides for a 24-bed post-adjudication facility to be built adjacent to Air Chapel and the Boot Camp. This facility will house parolees and students who have served their time but do not have safe home environments to which they can return. Faithful Friend will continue to mentor and educate students in the Boot Camp and to expand its involvement with them in the new facility being built nearby.
To initiate the K9 Program, Faithful Friend has gathered the support of the Superintendent of the Grayson County Boot Camp, Air Chapel, Sherman Texas Lions Club, VFW Post 7873, Purple Heart Association, American Legion Post 030, the Vietnam Veterans Association Chapter 973, Marine Corps League Post #929, the Texoma Veterinary Hospital, the Veterans Administration hospital in Bonham Texas, area humane shelters, and community and corporate sponsors. The first volunteer youth in the program will be a local Eagle Scout candidate. The scout will earn his Service Award by documenting the project, learning canine training methods, and working with a dog in preparation for certification as a service animal. Faithful Friend will oversee the scout’s training, be on call 24/7 for assistance, schedule regular training sessions with the scout and his K9 charge, and locate and work with a handicapped veteran who will ultimately receive the trained canine.
There are several reasons why the program will begin with an Eagle Scout candidate. The local Boy Scouts of America and Vietnam Veterans of America Chapter 973 have already come together at the Air Chapel for combined work projects. All three organizations are in support of the K9 Program and have volunteers who are ready to begin. A successfully acquainted team will start the K9 Program off on its best foot forward. The local community is already aware of these three organizations’ past successful collaboration, and the local press is ready to build up this next endeavor (see TV related news stories; “Veteran Service Dogs”, “At Risk Youth Boot Camp Visit”, “Faithful Friend In The News”, Shiloh’s Tale). The impact of the K9 Program goes well beyond the lives of the dogs, student volunteers and wounded veterans. It reaches deep into the fabric of the Grayson County Community that these groups touch and the lives they influence.
During advanced stages of training, canines will require public venues for behavioral conditioning. Demonstrations on dog safety in schools and public gatherings will be targeted. SPCA public events such as dog walks, adoption days, and fund raising exposure will also be targeted. By giving a veteran a service animal to assist him or her in such public gatherings, we also help the veterans be more active in our society, give them opportunities to heighten public awareness about service dogs, and allow them to help raise canine issues such as animal shelter fundraising and pet adoption programs. The cycle then completed reinitiates itself with heightened public awareness, which encourages other dogs to be put into the program, with new youth who wish to participate, and for more veterans to see the benefits this can have for them in the community.
The largest key to success has been the broad community support which we have already received. Faithful Friend has long been recognized for its at-risk youth program and use of well-trained canines. The expansion into the Grayson County K9 Program for Faithful Friend is a reasonable next step. The financial support Faithful Friend is seeking is far less than what it has taken to initiate similar programs in other parts of the country. This is largely due to the existence and partnership with Air Chapel who already has a free standing building and existing Grayson County youth program. Because our long existing programs complement each other, a great savings can be realized by our combined efforts.
The first goal for the K9 Program was to garner approval from the Air Chapel and the Superintendent of the Grayson County Boot Camp. These approvals were immediately received based upon past experiences with Faithful Friend. The second goal was to incorporate a broad community support for the K9 Program. The Marine Corps League Post #929 of Grayson County has offered its support. The Vietnam Veterans of America Sherman Texas Chapter 973 has also given their support. Included with our letters of recommendation is one from the Vietnam Veterans of America’s Chapter #973 President, Charles Holcomb. Mr. Holcomb is also the PTSD Peer to Peer Facilitator for Grayson County as well as Fanin and Collin Counties. We have area Boy Scouts of America troops interested in participating with volunteer K9 trainers. Dr. David Tidwell with Texoma Veterinary Hospital will provide medical care for the dogs. We have area animal shelters and dog breeders who wish to provide canines for the Program. We have a commitment to the K9 Program from our first wounded veteran. The third goal has been to find local donor support, philanthropic foundation support, and national corporate sponsorship. We have a pledge to pay for the first two dogs to be used in the Program by a local donor. We have received financial support from the Oonk Foundation and the Florence Foundation. We have received national corporate sponsorship for pet products from 1-800-PetMeds. Additional funding is needed for our operating budget which is scalable. With an increase in our general budget we can produce more service dogs. We do not have any bricks and mortar overhead but we could use a more appropriate transport van. The diesel van we are hoping for which would most suit our needs is a “Sprinter” or similar type vehicle.
We have an advisory board made up of local combat veterans from our area’s military organizations and the nearest VA hospital. Our board allows for direct veteran over sight in the program, it acts as a liaison to the veteran community for the program and screens veteran applicants for K9 Program participation. Our advisory board also assists with local area involvement and for future community fund raising. Participating veterans are required to be active in peer-to-peer groups, be committed to their ongoing care by remaining under the supervision of mental health professionals, and several other criteria.
There are approximately 15,000 veterans in Grayson County, Texas. Thousands of these are combat veterans who are suffering from some level of Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). The demand for service dogs by this group far outnumbers supply. Service dogs cost between $10,000 and $30,000 to produce depending upon the skills needed. Because the K9 Program receives financial support these service animals can be offered to veterans at no cost to themselves and be made available to worthy veterans who would otherwise not have access to such assistance. Through the course of a year, Grayson County’s boot camp houses around 100 youth. The post adjudication facility will be home to 24 young men. Grayson County has a growing population of about 120,000 currently and the number of veterans to the general population is much higher than in most Texas counties. Because of its broad community support and the large resident veteran population, the Grayson County K9 Program will have a very high impact level for this rural tight knit community.