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A local organization is connecting veterans and first responders with trained service dogs

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Posted at 9:09 PM, Apr 23, 2023

One local organization is saving and changing countless lives throughout the community.

It all starts with the human-canine bond.

New Life K9s is an organization in San Luis Obispo dedicated to training service dogs that can be connected with veterans and first responders struggling with PTSD at no cost.

“We train our dogs at the men's colony here in SLO. So we have a group of 16 guys right now. Our dogs live there with them. We go in twice a week to teach the guys how to train the dogs," said puppy parent coordinator, Amber Nieslanik.

The goal of training is to prepare the dogs to help first responders and veterans both physically and emotionally.

“Waking up someone from a nightmare and helping them through that or providing a space bubble in public so they don't feel as overwhelmed. Lots of different stuff like that helps them be able to live their life a little bit more normally than they could before," added Nieslanik.

There are many working pieces to the puzzle.

“So the dogs live at the prison with the guys all week. Then on the weekends the dogs go out to the real world and practice everything they need to know to be a service dog eventually," explained Nieslanik.

That’s where puppy raisers come into play.

“I've been working with Henry specifically since September of last year," said puppy raiser, Taylor Piatt.

Taylor Piatt is one out of 15 volunteer puppy raisers. Henry follows Piatt throughout the day practicing different real-life scenarios that will train Henry to be a service dog.

Training takes about two years for the dogs. Two years that Piatt is also part of up until graduation.

“Having something that you're responsible for just makes you feel really worthy and it really changes your life in so many ways. They are here to help train and change other people's lives, but I think people don't realize how much it really affects you every single day," said Piatt.

It takes a village to get the dog ready to graduate and become a service dog.

“So it takes a very specific dog to become a service dog. So, you know, not every dog is going to make it, but our goal is to graduate as many as we can," added Nieslanik.  

There are many ways to help or volunteer for more information you can go to this website.