The newest service dogs from America’s VetDogs, Smithtown, NY, will participate in a Washington graduation cermony beside four disabled veterans who have served in Iraq, Afghanistan, and other conflicts, before a gathering of top army officials, defense contractors, and supporters of the organization.

America’s VetDogs provides wounded heroes with new comrades to help them conquer challenges as they regain their independence and mobility after suffering serious injuries in battle, including loss of limbs. VetDogs works with veterans of all eras and with the military, to meet the need for innovative assistance dog training, the organization says.

During an intense 6-month training process, the dogs are trained to help veterans based on their individual needs. Guide dogs are trained to assist those who are visually impaired to find and follow a clear path, maneuver around obstacles, and stop at curbs, while service dogs are taught to help veterans who have disabilities other than visual impairment. They may provide balance and stability support, and fetch and retrieve dropped items. Combat stress relief dogs are deployed with combat stress control units in theater for active military personnel to offer emotional support, and military therapy dogs provide physical therapy assistance at military or VA hospitals for wounded soldiers.

Neil Duncan, who served in Afghanistan, is among the graduates, says the organization. As he was driving down a hillside in a dry river bed, an IED buried by an enemy combatant blew up under his truck. Duncan was hospitalized at Walter Reed Army Medical Center, missing his right leg above the knee and his left leg below the knee. His right arm was bandaged from fingertip to armpit, and his jaw was wired shut. In a statement released by the organizationl Duncan says his service dog helps him to continue to “reach for the stars.”

Jose Ramos is aided by Stryker, the first service dog from VetDogs. Stryker assists Ramos in getting up and down stairs and into bed, and fetches dropped items, such as his keys or wallet. Ramos says in a statement from the organization that Stryker has been "my ticket back to the real world."

[Source: America’s VetDogs]