LIBERTY, Mo. – Several dogs are undergoing more than just basic training. A local nonprofit is adopting dogs to help veterans with their invisible wounds and give both a chance for a new life.
“You either control it or it’s going to control you,” said Lyle Babcock with the United States Army.
Babcock will retire in August after serving 30 years.
"I spent 17 months in Afghanistan, did two back-to-backs, came back. I really didn't have a problem, everyone else did,” said Babcock.
After returning home from each tour, Babcock said he was ready to go right back overseas.
"It was easier over there than it was here,” said Babcock.
Babcock was diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). After suffering from trembles, nightmares, and night sweats, Babcock said he wanted something other than medication.
The Warriors’ Best Friend Foundation gave him Gunther. The nonprofit, located in Liberty, Missouri, rescues dogs from local shelters and trains them to be service dogs for veterans with PTSD or traumatic brain injuries.
The Warriors’ Best Friend Foundation is one of the only organizations of its kind in the Midwest.
"As far as the Missouri, Kansas, Iowa, Nebraska area, we are the only organization that rescues dogs and then trains them to actually be a service dog,” said Melissa Chesnut, Director of Philanthropy at Warriors’ Best Friend Foundation.
During the first two months of training, the dogs learn 25 basic commands. The next four to six months are spent in the community practicing their skills.
"Basically, anywhere a veteran would take their dog, we'll put them in those situations just so they know how to handle different environments,” said Bella Jeffers, Lead K9 Trainer at Warriors’ Best Friend Foundation.
In October 2017, Babcock’s dog Gunther passed away from liver disease. On Thursday, the foundation sent Babcock home with Finn.
Dogs may be referred to as, “man’s best friend,” but after seeing progress with his mental health, Babcock looks at them a little differently.
"GA -- guardian angel. They're watching your back, you're watching theirs,” said Babcock.
The Warriors’ Best Friend Foundation held a ribbon-cutting ceremony Thursday for their grass 5k cross-country course, Wildflower, located in Liberty.
Schools and public races will be held at the new course, helping the foundation continue its mission of rescuing and training dogs for free for veterans.