Nonprofit partners service dogs with veterans

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A service or support dog can help a veteran deal with a multitude of issues.

“We have a client who says their dog literally saved their life,” said Steve Corey, executive director of Victory Service Dogs. “Because of his [post traumatic stress disorder] and other disabilities, the veteran wouldn’t leave his basement, but that dog changed that because he had to take him for walks and go to training with him.”

The nonprofit’s mission is to help local veterans affected by PTSD and other disabilities have a better quality of life through a partnership with a service or support dog.

“Once we bring in a veteran client, we match them up with a dog that matches with whatever their disabilities are,” Corey said. “Then they receive the dog and both start training class together through us.”

The Army veteran started Victory Service Dogs about four years ago with wife, Kim Corey, who is the daughter of a Vietnam veteran.

“I saw what a life-changing difference a dog makes for these veterans,” Steve Corey said. “You hear all of the stories of veterans that don’t want to be on the medications, and there’s really not much that’s helping them out there. But the dog seems to make a complete difference for them.”

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The nonprofit assists about 50 veterans a year, although Corey hopes to expand that in the future, he said.

“The more dollars that come, the more veterans that we can help,” he said. “I’d like to get to the point where we’re helping 75 to 100 a year because there’s at least 100,000 veterans in this area, and I believe there’s hundreds that could benefit from a service dog that don’t have one.”

There’s a $50 application fee for veterans interested in participating in Victory Service Dogs in addition to a $500 program charge, Corey said.

“That’s more to just get a commitment from them to eliminate guys coming and getting a dog and then just disappearing,” he said, adding applications are available on their website at victorysd.org. “That’s still way cheaper than just getting a dog through an organization, which can cost up to $30,000.”

The emotional support canines take about six months to train while service dogs have up to two years of additional education, Corey said.

“A lot of our veterans have back issues, knee issues, and just all kinds of disabilities the dog helps them with,” he said. “We help veterans with PTSD, who need more of an emotional support dog, to those in a wheelchair that need more of a service dog.”

Corey said it’s the third year for the nonprofit to participate in the annual Give! Campaign.

“As a young organization, you need funding,” he said. ”You look at every possible opportunity to bring in funding and the Give! Campaign is local, helping local nonprofits and you don’t have to be a nonprofit in existence for 10 years or anything like that to participate.”

Money donated through the campaign will go into the nonprofit’s general fund, Corey said.

“From there, it will help us pay trainers, pay for dogs and if they need medical attention or anything like that,” he said. “Give! also helps get our name out in the community. Other organizations see us, and I’ve had many people say, ‘Oh, yeah, I saw you in the Indy Give! Campaign.’ So, I think it gives us more credibility.”

Donated funds also will help pay for upkeep of the nonprofit’s new facility on Wooten Road, Corey said.

“Before, we were kind of all spread out and the trainers would have to train the dogs wherever they could, like parks and stuff,” he said. “Cold weather could shut them down, but now, we have this huge space and they can do it here.

“It’s a big deal to have our own training facility because we want to help as many veterans as we can. We love helping veterans and really consider everyone that’s been part of the nonprofit to be family.”