Out in the scenic land of Bandera, Texas, the team at Warriors Heart aim to help veterans, active military and first responders work with their PTSD.
"What makes our program so special is the canine department," Warriors Heart Canine Program Manager Michelle Axmaker said.
These dogs aren't just man's best friend, but at times they are their biggest life saver.
"They're going to mitigate anxieties that could be anxiety, depression, loneliness," Axmaker said. "We're seeing lower risks of suicide and healthier outlooks on life"
Axmaker relates to her clients at Warriors Heart. She too relies on a canine to get her through her own battles.
"I have PTSD and one of the symptoms that I've worked the hardest on is nightmares. I was taking lots of sleeping medications, sometimes avoiding sleep," she said. "I trained my companion dog who is Otis, a Boston Terrier, to wake me up when I'm having those nightmares. His cue that the game has started as me talking in my sleep, so then he'll touch me on my face with his paw or he'll sit on my chest."
Like most dogs, the canines at Warriors Heart are full of personality. The biggest difference is the 120 hours of training to make sure they are alert to help their human companions. Axmaker it takes the dogs weeks, sometimes months to be fully trained. Once their training is complete, they are ready to spring into action at a moments notice.
"They love their handlers just like our dogs at home do," Axmaker said. "They just have a very specialized career."
For these dogs, life isn't rough. It's a chance to serve those who have served their country, and to bring out joy and life the only way they know how.
"Seeing these people smile, and be happy again and live life to the fullest with a routine and a partner really makes my heart full and happy," she said.
The Warriors Heart K-9 Program takes donates to help fund the training for these dogs. They do also accept dog donations that fit their stringent requirements to be a PTSD service dog. For more information, visit the Warriors Heart website.