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Connecting veterans, first responders with service dogs | On the Bright Side

In this week's On the Bright Side, see how Cover Six Canines has been life-changing for veterans and first responders.

RED LION, Pa. — Veterans have given so much, and in return, a Red Lion nonprofit is now watching their backs.

Cover Six Canines connects veterans and first responders with service dogs and training, at no cost. 

"I've watched our veterans and first responders go from staying at home doing nothing to going out in public. It makes it worth it,” said Cover Six Canines president Edward Kohr. 

Army veteran Brett Altland was connected with 2-year-old service dog Zaida. 

After serving in Iraq, Brett was left with post-traumatic stress disorder and anxiety, which Zaida helps him with daily. But she also does so much more.

"I've had back surgeries, so I've had trouble standing up and sitting down,” said Altland. “She helps me get moving and reminds me of medications. If I were to happen to drop, say, a pill bottle, I’d be able to have her take, bring and give it to me. So, we're working on that,” he said.

Zaida and Brett are one of more than 40 pairs of dog-handler teams currently in training.

"When they first come in, they start with obedience training," said Kohr. "Then we start doing public access."

After completing the basics, the specialized training begins, which caters to each handlers' needs.

"I have a veteran that self-harms himself," said Kohr. "His canine is trained to jump on his arms and keep him down, so he doesn't self-harm."

And organization leaders say this life-changing assistance is easy to receive.

Participants need a doctor's note stating the handler would benefit from a service dog. A copy of a DD-214, or verification of applicant being a first responder, is also required.

“Within a week, we can get you in the program and started," said Kohr. 

These handlers not only gain a canine partner, but also an entire support group.

"It turns into a family,” said Altman. 

“When you see the veterans coming out of their shell, out in the public and having a life.. that's what it's all about," said Kohr. 

Cover Six Canines is located at 651 Lombard Rd. #323, Red Lion.

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