Operation Delta Dog – Training Shelter Dogs to be Service Dogs for Veterans with PTSD

By: Kane – July, 2021

KANE2Operation Delta Dog, Ellie is a 7-month-old Nashua Police Tracking Dog in training and learning to be a Community Comfort Dog for Veterans and other community members. She is in the care of Operation Delta Dog’s lead trainer Carolyn Barney and started training and socialization with her handler from the Nashua, NH Police Department.

Ellie is a Chocolate Labrador Retriever, who has several months of important training ahead of her to learn search and rescue as well as using her vibrant personality, wiggle bum, and non-stop kisses to provide emotional support and joy to veterans residing in Veterans Housing.

According to Carolyn Barney; 20 to 30% of search and rescue calls are to locate children, veterans, and people with Alzheimer’s disease. Kane thinks Ellie is one smart cookie and Carolyn is even smarter since she has to stay one step ahead of her at all times to anticipate her puppy antics and training needs.

Operation Delta Dog is A 501C3 nonprofit with a mission to rescue homeless shelter dogs and train them to be service dogs for veterans with Post Traumatic Stress (PTS), Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI), Military Sexual Trauma MST), and related challenges. The ASPCA reports that 3.3 million dogs end up in shelters each year and 22 Veterans take their own lives in the United States every day.

Operation Delta Dog strives to improve the lives of participating shelter pets and veterans by pairing them together to make a team based on living your purpose, increasing socialization, expanding quality of life, and living a life full of love and affection.

Carolyn reported that many of her participating veterans report spending less time in isolation and more time out exploring their community, time out of the house with family, work, and pursuing interests.

Kane cannot emphasize enough how solid the Operation Delta Dog training program and operation is. There are many programs striving to perfect matching homeless dogs with Veterans in need, but the level of professionalism and investment in both the rescue dog and health and success of the Veteran / dog team is above and beyond. Operation Delta Dog trainers comprehensively screen canine candidates for a life filled with purpose and affection. Local veterans are able to complete their training without leaving their jobs or families. Kane asked how long these veteran teams train and learned it is well over a year with several steps.

Operation Delta Dog has their main presence in Chelmsford, MA, and a beautiful training facility in Hollis New Hampshire. Kane was invited to tour the facility and observed Ellie working with Lead Professional Trainer Carolyn Barnes. Ellie is just 7 months old and had to practice not saying hello for a few minutes when we arrived.

Kane thought this was a hard task for such a friendly pup. She was rewarded for her hard work by a clicker noise and a dog treat. Kane hoped that his human noticed this training technique since he could easily eat lots of treats. All joking aside, Kane knows this is quite different since Ellie was doing important work. Learning not to greet everyone and greeting people appropriately is an important lesson.

Carolyn Barney explained that there are often 4 dogs training in the facility at a time. The first 4 months are with the trainer learning all the basic commands, how to walk through doors, ride in the car, bonding with people, and enjoying having a purpose. The candidate canines must be confident by nature and eager to learn. A lot is expected of the pups in terms of being out in the world, constantly going into new situations, and tight spaces such as elevators, shopping areas, and strange houses. It would be unfair to select a pup that is naturally shy or fearful.

After the dog completes their 4-month training, they will be paired with a veteran who starts training at the Operation Delta Dog Training Center with their dog. As training progresses there are training home visits and family training before the pup actually starts the process of going home to stay with the veteran and family. Once the dog is placed with the veteran in their household they continue to go to the training center in Hollis 2 to 3 times a week for a full year. Kane was amazed with the amount of training and support each team received in making the match between dog and veteran solid.

Kane asked what exactly will Ellie be doing when she and her veteran graduate from the training program? Carolyn Barney explained that Ellie will have two jobs. One is she will report for her K9 police shift with her Veteran Officer in Nashua NH and be deployed for missing person calls. Her second job with be visiting the Veteran Housing where her handler / partner will provide companionship and emotional support to the residents.

Kane thinks this is a wonderful job for Ellie since she is smart and friendly.

If you would like to volunteer or donate to Operation Delta Dog, please visit operationdeltadog.org. Kane looks forward to participating in Walk and Wag on November 14th, 2021 at Mines Falls in Nashua, NH. He would encourage everyone to come out and walk the route through the woods for a great cause. For more information on Walk and Wag check out the page at www.walkandwagforveterans.com.

Kane Peaslee Woof ◊