(COLORADO SPRINGS) — One local non-profit is changing veterans’ lives with free service dogs.
Rocky Mountain Battle Buddies raises and trains puppies to support veterans with mental and physical disabilities.

“Our purpose is to help our U.S. veterans just achieve a new normal after everything they’ve sacrificed for our country,” said Linnea Edwards, a puppy raiser coordinator with United States Veteran Service Dogs.

Rocky Mountain Battle Buddies is the local Colorado chapter of the parent organization United States Veteran Service Dogs. Over the course of 12 to 18 months, puppies are trained specifically for the needs of the veteran they are matched with.

“If the veteran has PTSD and panic attacks…The dogs can interrupt a panic attack by distracting the veteran…We also have veterans who have mobility issues, whether they’re in a wheelchair, have a walker, or they’re an amputee. These dogs are trained to go retrieve items, open doors, etc,” said Edwards.

The organization provides these service dogs at no cost to the veteran.

“The organization gives these dogs free, and they are worth their weight in gold,” said Tina Young, a volunteer with the Rocky Mountain Battle Buddies.

They don’t require any qualifications for someone who wants to become a puppy raiser or sitter. Puppy raisers take care of the dog full time, while a sitter provides support for the raiser. In the instances where the raiser goes on vacation, or has an emergency, the sitter would train and take care of the dog.

Young recommends starting off as a sitter, in order to get familiarized with the organization. The organization meets twice a month where puppy raisers and sitters are guided through the necessary skills that need to be taught.

The question on everyone’s mind: How do you give up the dog at the end? Volunteers say that while it’s sad, the cause is worth it.

“The veterans are so grateful for the dogs…The sacrifice we make, letting them go, is not comparable to the sacrifice they made,” said Young with tears in her eyes.

Rocky Mountain Battle Buddies is home to one of the largest puppy-raising groups in the country. There are raisers and sitters of all ages starting in high school in the Colorado Springs and Denver area. All supplies except for food are provided by the organization.

If you are interested in volunteering to raise or sit a puppy, contact Linnea Edwards at 504-215-7645 or email her at Linnea@USVSD.org.

Organizers say that they have given service dogs to veterans who thought their life was at a dead end. But, these service dogs have allowed veterans to see that their whole life, is actually ahead of them.