Jeremiah Church, a United States Army veteran, after having worked for 11 years in the Army with two deployments in Iraq and Afghanistan suffered from PTSD and anxiety. He experienced the problems whenever he had to leave his house and that turned out to be a big deal when socializing became a task for him, until he got this ‘fur therapy’.
On a Sunday morning, after a long busy week, Jeremiah was drove away with his wife Amy looking forward to have breakfast at local diner, only Amy had some other destination in mind that would bring about a change in the veteran’s life. She took her husband to the Coastal Humane Society.
“I was like, what are we doing here?” Jeremiah recalls. “And she was like, just come inside.”
Jeremiah there met Hagen Blaszyk who was the co-founder of K9s on the Front Line. All these while Amy was coordinating with Hagen and his team to find a suitable service dog for her husband in order to help his fight his issues.
“My wife… she saw that I was hurting, she saw that I was having trouble and [that] I wasn’t necessarily doing anything to help myself, so she started doing some research,” says Jeremiah. “She found K9s on the Front Line. It was all kind of a surprise to me, but a very welcome [one].”
The K9s on the Front Line works for veterans like Jeremiah with a routine of providing them with a trained service dog free of cost. After setting up the pair, the new duo has to go through a rigorous 16-week training program before they are fully ready to be companions.
Basically those veterans who are not able to train their existing dog into a service dog can take help from K9s on The Front Line getting a dog from a local shelter.
A charming Belgian Malinois breed of dog whose name was Q got paired up with Jeremiah. Not every dog is eligible to become a service dog but that doesn’t make them any less of a beautiful creature. Q was dropped out of the police training as they could not get him bite anybody.
Every time a new batch of dogs are given to the local shelter, a group of active and retired K9 police officers working with K9s on the Front Line check up on their “emotional intelligence” to determine their capability of becoming a service dog.
Hagen says, “All dogs have that ability to really read our minds… [but] some dogs have that capacity much more than others, just like some people can run much faster than other people.” “We handpick these dogs for that enhanced capacity of emotional intelligence.”
There is no particular breed of dog that will be the best of service dog but they are only needed to be of significant size to “keep a physical barrier if needed.” The breed has nothing to do with the ability of being a good companion, all that matters is just the bond between the veteran and the dog, says Hagen.
The positive changes in Jeremiah’s life are the proof of K9 on the Front Line’s paring method to be working and doing wonders. Once having social anxiety and the inability of being able to talk to strangers has certainly improved as the veteran now is able to manage himself in public.
“Before, if we were gonna go shopping, I dreaded it,” says Jeremiah. “[There was a moment for me when] it was like, holy cow, I want to leave the house, I want to go out in public, I want to go back out and start doing things again.”
“People can’t help but be attracted to this animal and that forces me to engage with people in public,” says Jeremiah. “The more I’m talking to people, the easier it is to be out in public and the less anxiety I have. It’s like getting your life back, really.”
K9s on the Front Line does not just setup dogs but add members in a family of veterans with PTSD. Apart from the primary objective of getting a service dog, it also helps opening up to people about PTSD.
“Everybody’s always poking in and making sure you’re all right,” says Jeremiah. “I gained another family more than I gained friends.”