Exclusive Interview: K9s For Warriors

by      January 08, 2015

After receiving an order for one of the biggest American flags we’ve ever created, we looked into where it was going and who it was going to. What we learned was inspiring.

Our flag was set to ship to K9s For Warriors, a nonprofit organization that trains service dogs to help disabled veterans suffering from PTSD. I had a chance to talk with Shari Duval, president and founder of K9s for Warriors.

Read K9 For Warriors’ story below. 

What is K9s For Warriors?

K9s For Warriors is a nonprofit that trains service dogs for disabled veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injury as a result of the wars since 9/11. In fact we are the largest PTSD/service dog recovery program in the US.

What inspired you to found it?

I founded K9s For Warriors four years ago, after my son returned home from Iraq suffering badly from PTSD. He was a bomb-dog handler in Iraq. I almost lost him to this disorder. He is an experienced dog handler and trainer, and in an attempt to save his life and others, K9s was started. I am the president and founder.

Who do you aim to serve with this program?

We serve [members from] all branches of our military nationwide who are diagnosed with PTSD or a traumatic brain injury.

What does a typical day look like for a warrior and dog in the program?

They are dressed and ready to leave our facility at 9:30. They then proceed with their group leader, one of our Warrior Trainers. Our Warrior Trainers are experienced dog handlers and veterans.

Can you share any outstanding success stories?

We have had hundreds. Most say they have gone from a hero to a zero, and we change that. I had one warrior that had enough of the horrific war nightmares and he decided it was enough. But when he went to get his gun to end his life, his dog was relentless in barking and jumping on him, ultimately pulling off his PJ bottoms. He stopped, broke down crying, and the dog jumped in his lap licking his face. 

His dog saved his life. He wrote us to thank us, and said he realized then, his life was so important even to his dog, he will never attempt suicide again. He has gone on to serve his community, went back to school, and was reunited with his family. FYI, we lose a veteran every hour in this country to suicide from PTSD. 

What’s the biggest challenge or obstacle you’ve faced getting this program off the ground?

We are solidly off the ground. Our program is 100% successful. Financial sustainability is our largest challenge, as we are privately funded through donations.

What’s the next step for K9s For Warriors?

We have been gifted a new facility, to open in February (we hope). I am having constructed a special buffet wall where our warriors will get their morning breakfast and evening meals. We will be housing 16 Veterans a month during their training.

Lastly, what drew you to a Patriot Wood flag?

Your piece will hang above the buffet. I wanted each Warrior when getting their food to know how much America honors and respects them. Your piece was what I was looking for. Handmade in America, large enough for my space. We are excited to receive it; it will be one of my signature pieces.

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If you’d like to support K9s For Warriors with a donation, head to their website, K9sForWarriors.org. K9s For Warriors also welcomes volunteers if you live near their Florida facility.

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