Two women in New Orleans Louisiana have come up with a new strategy for training veterans service dogs in the hopes that it will improve the graduation rate and reduce the service dog shortage.
According to WMC 5 News, only 50% of puppies at United States Veterans Service Dogs graduate and become service dogs each year. With 1,900 applicants waiting to receive their own service dog, that rate leaves many veterans waiting for extended periods of time.
Because of this dilemma, speech pathologist Maggie Homer, and physical therapist Maggie Watson have decided to train the newest generation of service dogs inside of the hospital rather than the traditional method of raising in a home. This way, the two hope to help the puppies become more accustomed to one of the biggest challenges for service dogs: coping with the hustle and bustle of a medical facility.
The socialization, desensitization, and specialized training the puppies will receive within the hospital will hopefully increase their chances at graduating and becoming a real service dog for a veteran in need.
“This program being implemented in a hospital environment is a big deal for veterans but it’s also a big deal in general,” said Cody Bellanger, who works at United States Veterans Service Dogs.
In addition to the improved training for the puppies, the hospital is also experiencing the unexpected benefit of a moral boost thanks to the furry friends now present in the facility.
“There’s nothing like having something around you that’s just happy,” said Homer, who is a Speech Pathologist and Puppy Raiser at the Touro Hospital.
“And I mean puppies… who doesn’t like a puppy?” added a patient at the hospital.