K9s For Warriors, the nation’s largest provider of service dogs for American veterans with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), recently announced a partnership with Cincinnati Bengals tight end Tyler Eifert through the athlete’s “Why I Stand Campaign.”
Eifert revealed in a blog post his reasons for commencing the campaign and his desire to support K9s For Warriors, a nonprofit organization based in Ponte Vedra Beach.
To create awareness for veteran PTSD and pay homage to those who have served, Eifert will write the name of a veteran on his cleats for each game during the 2017 NFL season. Featured names will be active or retired military members, including K9s For Warriors graduates. Pat Tillman was the name Eifert chose during the Bengals opener against the Ravens.
“I want to take this time to remind everyone why I stand,” Eifert said. “I stand because I love my country. I stand because I want to honor the people putting their lives on the line for me on a daily basis. PTSD is a serious issue and something that sadly results in suicide for many veterans when not treated correctly. By meeting and talking with the leaders from K9s For Warriors, they informed me they worry doctors are masking the issues of PTSD by just giving these individuals pills. K9s For Warriors believes more than anything that highly trained service dogs is the right answer.”
K9s For Warriors was established in 2011, by a mother, Shari Duval, looking to find a way to incorporate canines into her own son’s PTSD recovery. Duval’s son, Brett Simon, completed two tours in Iraq as a contractor handling bomb-sniffing dogs before being diagnosed. Duval presented the idea of opening a service dog organization that specialized in veteran PTSD to Simon. The mother-son pair started K9s For Warriors out of a two-bedroom home. Today, the charity operates out of a state-of-the-art, 9-acre property in Ponte Vedra Beach.
The nonprofit has been instrumental in the recovery of hundreds of disabled veterans and successful at preventing veteran suicide. Rory Diamond, the organization’s chief executive officer, lobbies on Capitol Hill to gain support for the PAWS Act and has also facilitated a major research project in collaboration with Purdue University to provide evidence that service dogs are a viable PTSD treatment option.
“The empirical evidence of the efficacy of service dogs in treating the symptoms of PTSD is clear and overwhelming,” Diamond said. “Veteran suicide is an epidemic, so the time for action is now. We need the support of lawmakers and our communities to help our heroes heal.”
K9s For Warriors utilizes rescue and shelter dogs, saving the time and money that would be required for a full-blown puppy breeding program. The veteran receives a fully-trained, healthy service canine that was saved from a high-kill shelter. 82 percent of K9 For Warriors graduates report a decrease in suicidal thoughts after receiving their service dogs.
For more information about K9s for Warriors, go to www.k9sforwarriors.org.