Posted: 12:00 a.m. Wednesday, Jan. 8, 2014

Focus on the Positive: Veterans Affairs

Angel PAWS trains, connects service dogs with veterans



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Angel PAWS trains, connects service dogs with veterans photo
Marine veteran Rich Harmon with his ‘gifted’ service dog, Gus, and trainer Phil Dane (right). CONTRIBUTED

By Virginia Burroughs

Contributing Writer

Waynesville resident Rich Harmon, a Marine Corps veteran suffering from PSTD and severe anxiety, was the first vet “gifted” a service dog through Angel PAWS, an outgrowth of Angels for Veterans.

“He’s made a world of difference to me,” Harmon said of Gus, a black lab. ”He wakes me if I’m having nightmares, he helps to control my anxiety, and he’s always there as a companion.”

Before becoming a service dog, Gus was at Greater Dayton Lab Rescue, where he was “saved” by Celina resident Sandra Bohle, founder of Angels for Veterans. “My own dog was a real challenge until I met Phil Dane, an obedience trainer in Eaton,” Bohle said. “During her training, I came up with the idea of adding trained dogs to Angels for Veterans, and Phil said he’d help.”

Dane, owner of Canine Doctor Phil in Eaton, has been a trainer since the mid-1970s. “When Sandy started talking about Angels for Veterans and suggested a dog program, we came up with Angel PAWS,” he said.

“I’ve trained dogs to help injured farmers do chores; every service dog I’ve trained came from a shelter or was rescued, so I feel like I’m saving a dog’s life to save a person’s life.”

Dane introduced Bohle to Fran Morford of Huber Heights, owner of Wagmor Service Dogs, who does the service training.

“For Angel PAWS, Phil does the obedience training, then I train them for service,” she said. “Depending on the recipient’s needs, I train them to open and shut doors, turn lights on and off, retrieve items, and offer emotional support.

“Companion dogs are trained to be alert for stressful situations; if the owner’s anxious, the dog will put its head in his lap to be petted. In public, they’ll go between the owner and approaching person and will circle him or her in a crowd to make them more comfortable.

“Angel PAWS’s sponsoring one now for a vet in Xenia with PTSD who has a son and child on the way, and wants to be able to attend his children’s activities without getting anxious.”

According to Bohle, “We have two dogs in training now, and that will make four in just over a year of the program. Training’s expensive, but there’s no charge to the veterans — we raise funds and receive donations.”

Anyone wanting to donate, or veterans who’d like to apply for a service/companion dog can contact Bohle at sandrabohle@angelsforveterans.org. The organization’s website is www.angelsforveterans,org.

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