Frequently Asked Questions about Operation Delta Dog
WHO IS ELIGIBLE FOR A SERVICE DOG?
Veterans should meet the following criteria to be considered for our program: – Have an official diagnosis from a health care provider of PTSD, MST and/or TBI. – Reside in an owned or rented home within an hour of our Training Center in Hollis, NH. – Be able to commit to the full training process (often one year to eighteen months), which includes one or more weekly classes in Hollis, in-home individualized training sessions, and self-directed at-home training. – If residing with others, one must have their complete support in obtaining a service dog. – Have the ability to care for oneself and a service dog.
WHAT ARE THE SYMPTOMS OF PTSD/TBI/MST?
The symptoms of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), Military Sexual Trauma (MST) and Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) are varied but can often reach a level of severity that will directly interfere with daily life. PTSD and MST can present with symptoms such as recurrent and intrusive thoughts and memories of the traumatic event, marked physiological reactions to triggering stimuli, avoidance of internal or external reminders of the event, increased negative cognitions in relation to the event, themselves, or the environment around them. Arousal and reactivity will also increase and present as irritability and anger, reckless or self-destructive behaviors, hypervigilance, exaggerated startle response, problems with concentration, and disturbances of sleep. The presentation of TBI symptoms will occur after physical trauma to the brain such as physical impact or rapid movement within the skull and will vary greatly depending on the area of the brain impacted. Most common symptoms are challenges maintaining attention, executive ability, learning and memory, as well as slowed information processing and disrupted social cognitions.
HOW CAN A SERVICE DOG HELP?
In recent years, many servicemembers and veterans have found that service animals can complement traditional treatment methods. Like service dogs for the blind, deaf, and physically disabled, these assistance animals are specifically trained to help people perform tasks they cannot otherwise perform for themselves. All our dogs are trained to retrieve dropped or misplaced items, provide balance and physical support, interrupt nightmares, block their veteran from other individuals when out in public, alert their veteran to an oncoming panic or anxiety attack, as well as provide security through the assessment of spaces for safety. Since symptoms vary by individual, each dog is trained with a unique combination of skills that matches their veterans specific needs. This allows the veterans to begin to enjoy their life once again.
HOW DOES YOUR TRAINING PROCESS WORK?
Operation Delta Dog works with professional trainers and behaviorists to identify the best canine candidates in shelters and breed-rescue foster homes. All participating dogs must meet strict guidelines relating to their temperament, health, and age. Once a suitable dog is found, he or she begins an 8-week intensive training period. During that period, the dog is matched with a veteran on our waiting list. If the two hit it off, they become a team and start living together and training together as soon as the initial 6-week training period is over. Training consists of multiple classes during the week (and lots of practice at home) and lasts approximately twelve to eighteen months. When training is complete, and if the dog passes a series of tests, he or she “graduates” from the program and becomes a certified service animal with all the protections afforded to its handler by the ADA.
DO YOU TRAIN DOGS FOR OTHER DISABILITIES?
At this time, we only train dogs to partner with veterans who suffer with PTSD, MST and/or TBI.
WHAT'S THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN A SERVICE DOG AND A PET?
Service dogs are not pets. Once an animal completes service dog training, it is permitted by federal law to accompany its handler into stores, restaurants, hotels, and other public spaces where pets are typically not allowed. In most cases, service dogs wear harnesses or vests that identify them as working animals. In order to qualify as a service dog as defined by the ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act), the animal must master basic obedience training and also complete at least three tasks for the person that the person cannot otherwise do for themselves.
HOW MUCH DOES TRAINING A SERVICE DOG COST?
There is no cost to the veteran to receive a service dog through Operation Delta Dog. Over the course of the 12-18 month training period, the organization spends approximately $25,000 to train each veteran/dog team, which includes the costs of adoption fees, training classes, insurance, basic office expenses, and veterinary care. The cost of this is fully supported through donations and grants.
HOW IS THE ORGANIZATION FUNDED?
Funding comes primarily from individual donations, corporate sponsorships, and private foundation grants. Donation amounts can range from a few dollars to a veteran/service dog team sponsorship of $25,000 and above. We also hold regular fundraising events to raise funds. Any and all donations are always very much appreciated.