Big Paws Canine Foundation
The foundation trains any and all types of dogs to help veterans with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (P.T.S.D.), traumatic brain injuries, breathing disorders, and immobility issues. Gail Dickerson of the Big Paws Canine Foundation indicates that a specific type of dog isn’t required for this training because everyone has different needs. "Our dogs can be used for balance work due to nerve damage or lose the use of limbs. We also train the dogs to alert to the CPAD machines if they are not functioning properly," says Dickerson.
One would think training the dog to learn these special skills requires work, but it’s just the opposite. The training is the easy part for the foundation. The biggest part of this process is developing the bond between the dog and the owner. Dickerson explains, "We are (theoretically) expecting the dog to possibly save a human being's life. We don't want an unstable bond if that were to happen."
The most gratifying part of the process of is seeing the owners connect with their dogs. That bond generally takes about two years to fully emerge. This is all thanks to the volunteers. In fact, Big Paws Canine Foundation is one non-profit in the Sioux Empire that is run entirely by volunteers. "Nobody in the organization takes a pay check." states Dickerson. "Our mission is to train and donate service and companion animals for disabled veterans along with former first responders."