Veterans learn to train their own service dogs as a part of a Louisiana program



By Janet McConnaughey

Former Marines Kelsie Owen and Kevin McClendon both have post-traumatic stress disorder — and have specially trained dogs that are helping them recover from the illness.

Owen’s dog, Nola, wakes her from nightmares and nuzzles her for attention if a panic attack is coming on. McClendon has trained his two Rottweilers to form a “T” in front of him to make sure he has enough personal space if people get too close.

Now, the two veterans will learn to train service dogs and to teach other military veterans suffering from PTSD, brain injury or other medical problems how to train their own pets to meet their medical or psychological needs. They will be among the first participants in a new “Companions for Life” program to teach veterans, including those who’ve never worked with canines, to train their own service dogs — animals coming from shelters.

Program co-founder William Barse says there are more veterans who want service dogs than available dogs. Barse, hire vetswho runs a training program that teaches Louisiana inmates to train shelter dogs, teamed up with Phil Ruddock of Brothers and Sisters in Arms Dog Training, a nonprofit organization that trains service dogs in five Louisiana cities and a Dallas suburb to help veterans with disabilities.

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