Patriot PAWS is still having trouble getting service dogs to disabled veterans quickly enough. In fact, the average wait is more than three years long.
While three years is a long wait for anybody, for veterans who suffer from PTSD, knowing help is three years away seems like a lifetime.
“I literally could not get out of the house,” said Army veteran Aaron Mixell who also works as a veteran coordinator for Patriot PAWS.
It's not easy for struggling veterans to reach out and ask for help to begin with even when they know organizations like Patriot PAWS are there specifically to serve them.
“It took years for me to finally say I need it because we don't want to do that. You feel like less of a man,” said Justin Ross, an Army veteran who received a service dog from the organization.
Knowing they will one day get matched with a service dog that will be there for them 24 hours a day, gives many veterans a reason to hold on, but with more than 100 veterans calling Patriot PAWS every week for help, the wait list keeps growing.
“There are truly nights that I go home and I worry about a veteran all night long. What am I going to do about this guy? We have a long waiting list,” Patriot PAWS founder Lori Stevens said.
Stevens has been working with other accredited service dog organizations to find out how to get dogs to veterans sooner. She found that many others are dealing with the same issue.
“There's a long waiting list and there's such a great need for what we're doing and every organization in America needs to grow,” Stevens said.
One thing patriot paws staff won't compromise on is training.
“There is a great need. Organizations need your help, but it's not a mass fix. You cannot just go to a shelter and expect to train that dog in three months to ride on a train, plane or eat in a restaurant with other people. They have to be trained for this and they have to be a good fit for this job,” said Stevens.
An increase in volunteers and donations is the only way Patriot PAWS can serve more vets in less time.
“Patriot paws is growing, we're expanding, we're building a facility so that we can house more dogs, but we can't do it without public support,” Stevens said.
And the staff at Patriot PAWS is doing everything they can because they know that for those who are suffering, waiting one more day could be the difference between life and death.
“The wait list here is long. They're always trying to get more volunteers, more donations because a dog can save a life. It's going to save mine,” Ross said.
To donate, volunteer, apply for a dog or learn more about the organization visit this website.