Group uses dogs to help veterans with PTSD

A group in San Antonio is changing damaged lives with unconditional love that comes with four legs.

A man, Air Force veteran Tom Caddell and a dog, Mollie are saving each other's lives.

"A lady in my neighborhood was going to put her to sleep because she couldn't handle her and I took her in and we bonded. We just kind of help each other," said Caddell.

They are perfecting that bond with the "Train a Dog Save a Warrior" campaign. It's a program that lets vets train with their dogs in the hope of relieving the symptoms of PTSD. It's training in trust.

"I don't know...I feel like I can let my guard down a little because she's watching for me…like she's got my back or something," said Caddell.

Caddell told FOX that before Mollie came along he wouldn't leave his home for years due to fear and paranoia. He says he is still struggling with his condition but is making progress.

"It's really helped me out I...ah...things don't startle me and I can get out around people. I don't isolate as much as I used to," said Caddell.

Bart Sherwood is one of the people behind "Train a Dog Save a Warrior".

"The vets who apply for our program most have the invisible wound of PTSD, traumatic brain injury or military sexual assault victim. You don't see the scars on the outside but inside they're as damaged as a triple amputee," said Sherwood.

He says with so many of these vets it's a similar scenario.

"When they enter the military they are given a gun a uniform and told the person next to them is there battle buddy," said Sherwood.

But Sherwood adds that when they return home from deployment without their battle buddy.

"The thing they give up is that battle buddy and there's no replacement for what they've seen. Their families can't do it. Their friends can't do it and they are left by themselves, the hyper-vigilance and scared feeling. The dog gives them a non-judgmental unconditional being that's by their side that just wants to be with them," said Sherwood.

He says the results can be amazing. Robert Morrison a 20 year Army vet couldn't be in a crowd of people but now with his dog he can.

"When she sees me getting on edge she wants attention and you focus on her and then you forget about all the things around you," said Morrison.

Michelle Moncevalles has seen the same in her husband Martin since he's been training with "Loretta".

"He's less anxious, less stressed, more calm. She just knows when to come and calm them down," said Moncevalles.

"The dog nuzzles or touches to pull the person back before a full blown flashback that ‘hey we're in San Antonio we're not deployed you don't have to worry about it,'" said Sherwood.

Bart says the training is pretty basic and takes15 to 20 weeks. The first eight are on obedience. Then it gets more specialized using a dog's natural ability to sense stress, sweating, changes in blood pressure.

Carolyn Keiser says many dogs learn to wake their partners up from the nightmares. When the training is over they are certified service dogs.

"This is what dogs were meant to do, work with people and to see the dogs and the warriors benefit, I can't tell you how rewarding it is," said Keiser.

"Rewarding" may be an understatement for Caddell, remember he saved Mollie from being put down. He says Mollie saved him from eventually killing himself.

"I just hope I'm worthy and capable of earning what she's providing. I'll be with her until one of us quits breathing this has saved my life it really has," said Caddell.

So far since 2010 Train a Dog Save a Warrior has trained 63 dogs. It costs from $1,700 to $2,500 to train the dogs. There is no charge to the vets.

To donate or for more information about the program click here.

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