Pairing vets and dogs

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The Pilot Club of Belen almost has enough money to buy the first specially trained service dog for one disabled Valencia County veteran, and has applied to the International Pilot Club for a matching grant.

The club is working with Paws and Stripes to raise money to sponsor and train service dogs for three more veterans in Valencia County.

Deborah Fox-News-Bulletin photo: Paws and Stripes and the Pilot Club of Belen work together to raise money to help local veterans at a recent Valencia County Kennel Club agility show. Pictured, from left, are Sharon Padilla, Paws and Stripes administrative assistant; Belen Pilot Club President Marlene Sanders; Pilot Club members Dolores Padilla, Kathleen Hill and new Paws and Stripes volunteer, Judith Vinyard.

Last month, the Valencia County Kennel Club donated booth space at its agility show event to help the club’s money-raising efforts.

Paws and Stripes was founded in 2010 by Lindsey Stanek and her husband, retired Staff Sgt. James Stanek. The organization takes a dog from a rescue shelter and pairs it with a veteran suffering from chronic PTSD, traumatic brain injury, or with a physical disability to train with a veteran.

The veteran picks a dog he or she is comfortable with, and then trains with the dog for a year.

“They bond and live together,” said Marlene Sanders, president of the Pilot Club. “The dog is trained specifically for that veteran.”

“Normally, service animals cost anywhere between $10,000 to $70,000,” Sanders said. “But, Paws and Stripes, which runs strictly on donations and grants, has got the cost down to $2,500 and the veteran doesn’t pay a thing.

The dogs are trained to give medical reminders, seizure alerts, mobility assistance or wake a veteran from a nightmare, said Sharon Padilla, Paws and Stripes administrator and coordinator.

They can bring them back when veterans have memory lapses, lose touch with reality, or alert them to a person the vet might not be aware is there, Padilla said.

“It’s kind of like a live biofeedback,” she said.

Sander’s husband is a Vietnam veteran, and he has trouble sleeping at night.

“A person who has these kinds of problems has to feel as though they have someone covering their back,” she said.

They need to know nobody is going to attack them, she said. The dogs can be that guardian for their veteran.

If you would like to help, email Marlene Sanders at msanders17@hotmail.com or send donations to the Belen Pilot Club, PO Box 1305, Belen, N.M., 87002.


-- Email the author at dfox@news-bulletin.com.