A new non-profit in Schenectady County is pairing veterans with service dogs. Operation at Ease was created a year ago.
From the battlefield to the backyard, Matt Catlin and Casey Harris have been through a lot together.
“I am very lucky because I am getting to go through this program with my best friend from Iraq,” said Catlin.
Catlin and Harris served side by side overseas and returned together in 2007.
“I was kind of looking to get a dog,” said Harris.
“There was an existing program that was placing animals with veterans,” said Catlin.
Thanks to “Operation at Ease,” based in Niskayuna, each is now living with a new companion.
“She’s my little princess. That’s why she is in pink all the time,” said Catlin, standing next to his dog Isla.
The group, founded by Joni Bonilla, provides PTSD service dogs to veterans and active duty military members at no cost.
“It’s really the best thing I’ve ever done in my life,” said Bonilla, who works with rescue operations and shelters to get the dogs.
The animals go through five months of training with their owners, learning how to spot PTSD symptoms and provide comfort.
“She provides me comfort and companionship in a way that you can’t really replicate with any human relationship,” said Catlin.
Comfort in companionship: something many service members miss when returning home.
“When you get just a little taste of that, it is familiar. It is comfortable, and it is something most veterans are missing,” said Catlin.
“We’re going to take this as big as it wants to go. We’re not going to stop,” said Bonilla.
Veterans who already own dogs are able to participate in training, too.
For more information, contact Bonilla at firstname.lastname@example.org or 518-847-9941.
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