Program Trains Service Dogs for Grayson County Veterans - KTEN.com - No One Gets You Closer

Program Trains Service Dogs for Grayson County Veterans

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GRAYSON COUNTY, TX--Local veterans and troubled teens are beginning to reap the benefits of a very specialized canine program--one that is slowly but surely changing the lives of everyone involved.

During the past 20 years, Les Castro has taught countless canines the virtues of patience and loyalty.

In 1999, Castro founded "Faithful Friend Ministry,"a program in which he takes service dogs to visit troubled teens.

For years, Castro has been working with youth at Grayson County Boot Camp--teaching them to train canines to become service dogs for local war veterans.

"Pet therapy is well-recognized," said Castro. "And the point is kids get unconditional love in a place that's pretty tough. And for a moment, kids get to be kids again."

The dogs are critical assets for the veterans' day-to-day, many of who suffer from personality-altering disabilities.

Robert Blevins was one of the first airborne combat medics flown into Afghanistan and Iraq, and he suffers from post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

"When we come back, we're not just the same people," said Blevins. "And sometimes we suffer from invisible wounds. And that's from being in combat 24/7, day-to-day from multiple deployments we've been into."

Blevins says he is lucky to have Buster, one of the dogs from Castro's program.

In regards to Buster, Blevins said: "I'm accountable for him, and he's kind of accountable for me. You know, I look after him and he looks after me. When I start to get anxious, he starts to get anxious."

Castro not only teaches the dogs obedience, but also the ability to detect things invisible to the naked eye. For dogs whose owners are diabetic, he can teach them to detect the smell of fluctuating blood sugar.

It takes two years and $30,000 to train one dog. Castro needs to raise $150,000 to continue funding "Faithful Friend,"as he hopes to eventually be training a dozen dogs per year for Grayson County.

Blevins said: "Life before Buster was a lot of isolation, a lot of staying home, not a lot of going outside. I was scared to death to go to Walmart because it wore me out physically and emotionally."

Currently, Castro's program has two dogs in training, and three veterans on a waitlist for them. He is lacking the resources to make that a possibility for everyone, and donations can be made at www.faithfulfriend.org. Future funding will help purchase more dogs, provide further training, and compensate volunteers for their services.