Dog T.A.G.S. provide service dogs for veterans
Veteran Ron Lunn gives Dog T.A.G.S. and his dog, Kodiak, the credit for getting him out of his house.
"I didn't want to leave the house for anything. When I was out in public, I was having panic attacks," Lunn, a Dover Township resident, said. "Once Kodiak was trained up to the point where she had public access, I started venturing out, and now I come out to things like this."
Kodiak, a German shepherd, was 5 years old when she began training with Dog T.A.G.S., an organization that will train veterans' dogs to be service dogs or will locate and train a dog for placement with veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress and traumatic brain injury.
Two years later, Lunn and Kodiak were at a ribbon-cutting ceremony for the recently replaced bridge on Route 616 in Shrewsbury Township, where Dog T.A.G.S. received a donation from Walsh Granite Construction.
"Three years ago, there's no way I would've been here," Lunn said. "There's just too many people for me to be comfortable."
Along with about 30 people, many wearing hard hats and neon vests, Lunn was with two others who also brought their canines. Each of the dogs wore a vest, and Kodiak's vest said Service Dog in Training.
Dog T.A.G.S. president and trainer John Salvadia said his organization, based in Mechanicsburg, works to help veterans train their dogs to become service dogs. If that isn't possible, they will locate a dog and provide the equipment required and all of the training free of charge to the veteran.
"We have a lot of contacts," Salvadia said. T.A.G.S., which stands for Train, Assist, Guide and Serve, has a working relationship with various breeders, animal rescues and the Harrisburg Humane Society.
"Ron came in and he already had Kodiak," said Salvadia. "She turned out pretty good."
Salvadia says it could cost anywhere from $4,000 to $8,000 to provide a service dog, depending on each veteran's needs.
"We couldn't do it without the veterans organizations and these private companies that recognize the veterans and want to do something to help," said Salvadia. "If anyone knows a veteran that may benefit from our service, please look us up and give us a call."
For more information, go to www.dogtagsprogram.org or call 717-810-7532.