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Support Dogs For Those Who Support Our Freedom

By Stephanie Malench

Got Your Six Support Dogs is celebrating its 5th anniversary this month. In that time, over 40 specially trained support dogs were placed with military veterans and first responders that have emotional or physical needs that qualify them to receive the dogs.

Founder and Executive Director Nicole Lanahan said it takes about one year to get a dog ready to be placed with its person. The dogs live with two different trainers for six months each.

Got Your Six Support Dogs is certified through the Association of Service Dog Providers for Military Vets. Dogs receive 200 hours of training which includes basic obedience and the ability to meet the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) standard to be able to complete medical assessments, identify anxiety, interrupt nightmares, retrieve objects (such as keys), give medication reminders and give compression therapy (laying on the person’s chest until the stressor is over). Dogs normally receive an additional 100 hours of public training hours, which were not all able to be completed for this year’s class due to COVID-19 restrictions.

The 2020 service dog recipients and trauma resiliency graduating class included 10 survivors who met their dogs for the first time. This was the first class to be meet at the new Got Your Six Support Dog Training Facility sponsored by Purina Dog Chow in Maryville at 6 Schiber Court in Maryville which opened in March of this year. Over 50 veterans and first responders applied to be in this year’s class.

For two weeks participants receive free meals and lodging while they attend trainings and learn about their new dog with the help of the trainers that have been working with the dogs for the past year. A two hour training session includes dog care/ first aid, dog training learning theory.

Other trainings during the placement class include trauma resiliency, mental health/first aid, emotional intelligence and sample therapies (art, woodworking, trauma informed yoga, reiki, emotional freedom (tapping) technique, and aroma freedom technique). Participants can try as many of these as they want during the two weeks to see what works for them.

Once the veterans or first responders graduate from the program, free weekly drop-in sessions are available for them to get additional training with their dog. This will be especially important this year as the dogs did not get their full public training.

Normally, a summer BBQ weekend refresher is offered to graduates where they can attend refresher trainings and attend mental health workshops. That was cancelled this year due to COVID-19.

Got Your Six Support Dogs had just begun its capital campaign this spring and is looking for sponsors for dogs, rooms, offices, and classrooms to help raise approximately $400,000 of the $850,000 capital campaign for the new building. Cash donations may be mailed to the address above or items for the dogs can be purchased through their Amazon Wish List.

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