Help Us Fulfill Our Promise, Service Dog Training, Veterans, PTSD
To our local businesses, loyal dog loving friends and clients..
Please help us fulfill our dream and keep our promise to my late husband and the Disabled Veterans and Wounded Warriors of Washington State!
After spending 15 years training dogs in Parks and Rec Centers around the US and Europe while Active Duty, my husband CMSGT Larry L. Babb USAF (Ret) and I started a very successful dog training business "Paws-Abilities Dog Obedience" in Renton Washington in 1988. We moved to a permanent facility in Tukwila Wa in 1993 and happily trained dogs in all venues... Pet training, Competition Obedience and the various dog Sports. When the Americans with Disabilities Act was passed in 1993 we integrated the skills we had gained working with military families who wanted their dogs to enjoy European society (where dogs had public access) and began working with Owner-Trained Service Dogs at the request of our disabled clients. This was a new and incredibly important style of training that resonated within me as I had many diabled friends and clients. Skip ahead two decades and we had a documented, remarkable 25,000 dogs and puppies come through our facility for training classes, and a great many were Service Dog teams.
In October 2008 Larry passed away quite suddenly and my world fell apart... after being together for over 35 years, I was struggling to find a direction. Our daughter, Jennifer, also a military wife, put her own life on hold, came home from overseas, joined the business and worked incredibly hard to help pull the pieces (and me) back together.
In 2010, because of my experience working with owner-trained Service Dogs, I was unexpectedly contacted by persons involved in what was being called the Wounded Warrior Project. Several meetings later... Would Paws-Abilities be willing to help our Wounded Warriors? Would we be willing to re-locate closer to Joint Base Lewis McChord? There was funding available ($50,000) to allow us to make the move and build a facility dedicated to the project.
To make a difference and answer a need for soldiers with PTSD and other injuries to train their own service dogs?? YES!! A new beginning, a new direction - one I had unknowingly been preparing for for years... There was suddenly joy again. A renewed hope that enspired me to put my years of Service Dog training experience behind a project that would fill a real existing need.
Jennifer moved us to Fife, WA. , closer to JBLM, leased an unfinished space, allowing us to put together a facility designed specifically for this wonderful venture. Although our faciity is dedicated to my late husband's memory and military legacy, it is not just for Service Dogs - We are staying true to our roots... From Puppy Kindergarten and all levels of obedience, to the many dog sports like Agility, Nose Work, Rally, and Canine Freestyle, classes are still fully integrated - there is no distinction made between our able-bodied and our disabled clients - they are all here to train and enjoy the multi-faceted world of dogs. Even Service Dogs need a way to relax and their owners are encouraged to participate with their companions in a sport.
The suicide rate among Veterans is estimated to be 22 SUICIDES PER DAY! A well trained Service Dog can truly make a difference in the lives of our Veterans, however the better Service Dog Provider Organizations -the 501(c)3 Charities, have wait lists of over 5 years and offer no guarantee that the dog provided will bond to it's new handler. The handler gets no say in the matter - Male dog? Female? Coat? Size? The dog provided is the one they get. Period.
The benefits of the Owner-Trained Service Dog for PTSD or other Invisible Disabilities are UNBEATABLE....
First and foremost, the owner gets to choose their own dog from the countless breeds and mixes of all ages available for sale or through adoption at a local rescue . The owners get the option to pick the style of dog that most appeals to them....It's age, size, shape, temperament (busy or laid-back) purebred or 'mixed' it's up to the owner.
Having a say in the matter can be very empowering .
When an owner starts with a young dog or puppy, the bonding process starts instantly... the dog learns it's job in the environment it will be living and working in with the person or people it will be working for and who love it. In many cases even an older pet dog (Between 1-2 years old) is so bonded that it exhibits behaviors that can be molded - the dog seems to notice a distressed handler, a child with seizures or gets upset when their owners blood sugar rises or falls but it's a breed that is not typically associated with traditional service work.
Given the chance, even small businesses can make a huge impact..
We ARE finally working with our Veterans, wounded warriors and their family members as we had promised. We have gathered together an incredibly talented team of trainers and practitioners working with us to produce exceptional teams. Each is a separate entity, contracted with us and working together under one roof to accomplish a dream.
The transformations we have seen in our Veterans are truly inspirational.. even in Kindergarten, teaching their puppy's commands develops the owner's ability to communicate, to be assertive but not aggressive, a distinction some struggle with. It teaches patience with a sense of humor - laughter is the prevelant sound in class as members talk of their pups' antics.
As they progress through over 120 hours of classes, the dogs provide a sense of emotional well-being and the greatest support system ever. Dogs truly are the best medicine to help reintegrate our soldiers into society and return to that sense of self-worth and joy that exists in the company of a dog.
Our soldiers and Veterans are integrating into a ready made family and community. The community of 'Dog People' -It is in the Dog world that one is never judged by how they look or how they act. They are judged on the relationship with their dog. Some of these teams are now starting Agility where equipment crashes and bangs.. one is learning to Truffle Hunt and is outside most of the time now. Life is becoming more normal.
The promised funding never came through. It evaporated amid the turmoil surrounding the V.A. in the last five years. Without the funding, it has been a huge struggle for our facility to survive, but in spite of the odds, we are still here..! We are hoping to raise the original amount promised to us by the V.A. to secure the future of our building and our plan so we can afford to continue to meet the needs of our disabled clients and friends.