Columbia County, GA (WJBF) – All service animals are different, so training comes down to the dog’s attitude. While basic discipline might take a few weeks, specific training to assist veterans could take years and cost thousands of dollars.
Peter Way put Rory’s vest on him. “Putting the vest on means that that’s the changing point from dog to working dog,” he said.
Rory helps Way do just about everything. He has specialized training, one being physical mobility. Which means he helps Way by pulling his wheel chair. Rory is also trained to help Way with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), a condition he was diagnosed with after serving in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The Wounded Warrior says for 2 years he’s been trying to get Rory’s service recognized by the Charlie Norwood VA Medical Center (CNVAMC) as a “Dog of Record.”
At this time, CNVAMC only recognizes therapy dogs that assist veterans with physical limitations not mental health conditions.
“The VA provides a type of pet health insurance or dog health insurance that actually offsets the cost of his healthcare. So that it is not passed on to me directly since he is considered to be a direct mobility and assistance device,” Way told WJBF News Channel 6.
Rory’s training took nearly 2 years and all his education makes him worth about $50,000. A big reason why Way says he wants to have protection for his companion, but service dogs come in all sizes. Ori was rescued by a veteran and was finishing up his last test to become certified, the Public Access Test.
“Going into public places it gets him familiar, more involved with everyday activities. Going to the store, sounds, smells, other dogs maybe,” said Staff Sargent Donald McCarter, who is also a veteran of Afghanistan and Operation Iraqi Freedom.
While Ori’s training didn’t cost his owner anything, all the one-on-one coaching and time would have run up a bill of more than $1,000 dollars.
“We start out with basic obedience. Sit down, stay, come when called. Then we have to go through a series of advanced test through the A.K.A., with the C.D.C., and the advanced C.D.C.,” said MAtt Hammond, who is the head trainer and owner of Quality K9 Concepts.
If an animal is rescued they are screened to make sure it has the right personality to become a service animal. Trainers work to also make sure the Veterans and dog are a good match.