Veterans Say Trained Dogs Help With PTSD, But The VA Won’t Pay

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Cheryl Woolnough, director of training at Patriot PAWS in Rockwall, Texas, works with Papi, a Labrador retriever. Lauren Silverman/KERA News
 Cheryl Woolnough, director of training at Patriot PAWS in Rockwall, Texas, works with Papi, a Labrador retriever. Lauren Silverman/KERA News

Cheryl Woolnough, director of training at Patriot PAWS in Rockwall, Texas, works with Papi, a Labrador retriever.
Lauren Silverman/KERA News

At a warehouse near Dallas, a black Lab named Papi tugs on a rope to open a fridge and passes his trainer a plastic water bottle with his mouth.

Service dogs are often trained to help veterans with physical disabilities. Now, a growing number are being trained to meet the demand from vets with post-traumatic stress disorder and other mental health issues.

Those dogs learn extra tricks — how to sweep a house for intruders, for example, so a veteran feels safe.

“We teach them something called perimeter, where they go into the house and they check, they just touch all the doors and all the windows,” says Cheryl Woolnough, training director at Patriot PAWS, a nonprofit in Rockwall, Texas, that provides service dogs.

These dogs also learn how to create personal space for a veteran by stepping in front or behind the owner to block people from approaching.

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