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K9 Partners for Patriots

Updated: Apr 14

Saving both dogs and our veterans

The importance of programs K9 Partners for Patriots provide cannot be overstated. Prior to 2020, the reported suicide rates for US military veterans exceeded 20 per day. Far higher than the general population. Though no current statistics are available yet, all indicators suggest this has been far worse in 2020. The loss and heartbreak to so many families are very real. It is a real crisis. Mary Peter has been training dogs professionally since the 1980s. Mary has worked with all types, big and small with an equal variety of owners in her experiences. She is not self-trained or one who learned from the internet, but followed as formal a training program as we have available in the US before endeavoring on her career and it paid off with her receiving high praise and respect from her peers and great interactions with the local law enforcement and brought her to face military veterans face to face dealing with stigmatism and pressures of day to day life as a disabled veteran in our society.

“Success at programs like ours is essential because among veterans with PTSD we have a veteran suicide rate of 22 per day in the U.S. according to the Dept. of Veterans Affairs” -Mary Peter k9 Partners for Patriots

Though the subject has received more and more attention in recent years, proactive action that provides any real impact is more elusive. Mary decided she could do better and make a difference, one vet at a time. In 2013 she laid out a program for disabled veterans and decided she could help homeless dogs along the way too. In 2014 K9 Partners for Patriots was formally recognized as a 501 (c)(3) nonprofit organization.

Today, K9 Partners for Patriots has rescued and trained over 150 dogs successfully passed as service dogs and over 400 veterans in their program. It started with taking action but has been a carefully planned and executed program to date. Notable highlights of the program are reflective of this careful and sincere commitment. Building and evolving a truly effective plan of action to help our high-risk veterans led to a 2019 report from the University of Central Florida (UCF) study found a 65% decrease in suicidal ideation in programs participants.

In touch with the real challenges

October 2019 Ron Flaville became Chief Executive Officer (CEO). Interestingly Mr. Flaville was the very first veteran to complete the program Mary Peter and her team had built and knows firsthand the challenges, misconceptions and common mis-steps taken when dealing with our fellow veterans in need.

I’m humbled and cannot begin to express the gratitude I have for Mary and this program… She gave me my life back. She gave me my wife and kids back.” – Ron Flaville, CEO K9 Partners for Patriots

This direct experience and understanding is on point and reflected in comments by Rep. Jack Bergman, R-Mich. made in a recent interview concerning the new bill in D.C. addressing a new three year program targeting veteran suicide rates. Mr Bergman was quoted, “No matter how much money we continue to pour into traditional VA [services] that money is not going to reach the target market,”.

Regardless of the happenings in Washington , the people of the K9 Partners for Patriots are moving ahead. The bill is intended to include resources and organizations outside of the Veterans Administration, but has been hotly contested. Mr Bergman who pointed out the importance of making programs like K9 Partners for Patriots part of the solution necessary to make any real impact.

Day One starts with you.

Program participant Jeff Hoberg is a 9-year veteran who served in Iraq. He came home with medical problems attributed to the “Burn Pits” over the Oil Fields he encountered there, and medical conditions not so easily identified. His personal experience with isolation and the sense of overwhelming limbo reflects the perspective that is not well understood by most outside of this experience. Working with his dog “Ole” and gaining a sense of purpose made all the difference and he now acts as a veterans advocate.

"Stagnant is no good for us veterans” – Jeff Hoberg

The isolation and reluctance to ask for help is the first and often hardest hurdle to overcome. Jeff’s opinion is the “First day you decide to start healing yourself is ‘Day Zero’ and then you take it one day at a time”. We often use the phrase “living in the moment” in discussion with one another in the veteran and 1st responders in our community. It is all about taking that first step and it is ultimately up to each one of us to do that for ourselves the hardest is asking for ourselves. In the K9 Partners for Patriots, you are not just doing it for you. You are saving an innocent dog’s life too.

Extended family

The K9 Partners for Patriots on first look is a well-designed and professional program. That often infers an impression of corporate indifference. This was not the takeaway I had with spending a day with their leadership and more importantly, the veterans themselves participating. There really was a truly clear sense of an extended family, personal bonds and sincere caring.

Mary Peter was a successful dog trainer and saw the problems our veterans were having that she met. She saw that traditional approaches were not working, with high dropouts and difficulty with engaging these veterans. She is doing something about it. She understood that everyone was and individual and is making a difference. One veteran and one dog at a time.

Who is eligible?

The program at K9 Partners for Patriots involves a very case by case support and training of the veteran, who themselves are training the dog to be their service animal. You can contact K9 Partners for Patriots with questions you may have on your specific situation at the information at the end of the article. Or follow this link for more information:

The core requirements: US Military veterans with Honorable Discharge may provide a letter from a physician, counselor or Veterans Administration stating a diagnosis in Post-Traumatic Stress (PTSD), Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI), and Military Sexual Trauma (MST) and can handle the responsibilities of training and keeping a dog. NOTE: COVID-19 In response to the current Covid 19 pandemic, non-essential staff are working from home, but all enrolled veterans and their trainers are operational with some added measures to ensure the safe operations during classes and treatment sessions. Enrollment and contacts information is available via their website and on review, I did receive a reasonable response and attention was available.

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