Dog Tag Buddies

Wouldn’t it be great to give both dog and veteran a second chance to lead a fulfilling life?

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DeeDe Baker, ED/Founder working Q, our newest rescue. We try to work with our rescues at least 30 days before matching with veterans. That allows us time to determine temperament and trainability. If we decide the pup is not a good match for a veteran, we find them homes. The dogs never get returned to the shelter/rescue.
I am the proud wife of a veteran. He served in OIF as an E7 Scout Platoon Sgt in the Montana National Guard and came home a changed man. His story is not unique. His Humvee suffered an IED explosion in February 2005. He went on to suffer numerous secondary blast incidents. He tells me constantly how he would like to thank those people who built that up-armored Humvee because it saved his life and his men’s.

They all walked away. But he didn’t walk away unhurt. On the outside, he looked just fine. After his return, he was diagnosed with hidden injuries: PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) and a TBI (Traumatic Brain Injury). There are days he’s not allowed to drive. There are days he battles anxiety and anger. There are days he doesn’t resemble the man I fell in love with.

As I watched him on these rough days, I noticed something that would soon change both of our paths. I watched him lay on the floor with his dogs. I watched his demeanor change almost instantly. He calmed down. His anger dissipated. He became a bit more of the man I knew. And, of course, the dogs loved every moment of his attention.

My husband is not unique.

Montana is ranked 3rd in the nation for veterans, per capita. The number of young veterans suffering with hidden injuries has continued to increase post-9/11. The impact of the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan is being felt by a new generation of soldiers and their families.

A couple of years after my husband came home, he started to share how important his dogs had been in his day-to-day dealings with PTSD, TBIs and the challenges of these hidden injuries. That conversation led us to where we are now.

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My Trainer, Julie Myers of Kotas Kennels, her assistant Linda Overstreet working with one of our Veterans, Richard, and his rescued pup, Humvee.

Understanding the relief the dogs brought him, we had an idea: wouldn’t it be great to find an organization that could help place adoptable shelter dogs with veterans and provide training to them as a team? Wouldn’t it be great to give both dog and veteran a second chance to lead a fulfilling life?

Surely someone had thought of this and put the plan into action. But there were no organizations in Montana who were doing this. Several thought that a dog must be a certain breed to be trainable and of service. Others thought it would be too expensive and time-consuming.

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Some of our rescued pups during our obedience training class. We work with our veterans in small groups. This helps alleviate anxiety and ensures we give them one on one help as needed.

But all it takes is for one person to believe. . .

This past year, a VISTA Volunteer went to the local animal shelter seeking a project that was community, veteran and animal-oriented. My idea took on a new life. Through a group effort, we built the momentum and got the project moving forward.

Dog Tag Buddies is dedicated to providing veterans with hidden injuries the opportunity to lead more fulfilling lives by providing no cost services in the adoption and training of rescued dogs to become companion or service animals.

We work locally with the shelters and rescue groups to help veterans find the perfect companion or service dog. Our trainer has over 30 years of experience. We work one-on-one and in small groups composed exclusively of veterans to help them train and bond with their dogs.

Why shelter dogs? Montana has an overabundance of great dogs that just need a second chance. Our veterans deserve the very best we can give them and so do these amazing dogs who just need someone to believe in them!Montana_deede5

These services are not covered by the Veterans Administration and are funded 100% through donations and grants.

– DeeDe
Learn more about the work of Dog Tag Buddies at Dogtagbuddies.org or visit them on Facebook here.