Ryan Paddock served four years in the U.S. Navy, half that time spent working as military police officer in the Middle East.
Retired since 2008, Paddock has seen some of his buddies come home struggling with post traumatic stress disorder, some with physical disabilities, some with life-altering injuries.
But he also sees some four-legged friends who can serve his war-torn buddies and help ease the difficulties they experience, and so he’s launching Serving Soldiers, a non-profit service dog training organization, offered free of charge to military veterans.
“Service dogs can do so much for disabled vets, for those with PTSD and other emotional needs, for those with physical disabilities. I just want them to have all the help I can give them,” Paddock said, describing the inspiration behind his ambition to start Serving Soldiers.
For those suffering from PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder), a service dog can act as a buffer between the soldier and other people.
For those enduring flashbacks, a service dog can be trained to detect those episodes and interrupt the flashback.
Social anxiety can also be a challenging issue for returning soldiers, Paddock said. For those veterans, a service dog can enter a room or strange area first, checking that all is safe before allowing the veteran to enter.
“Not only that, having a dog forces activity,” he said. “You have to let him out, walk him, take him to the vet … Plus, just sitting with a dog, petting him, telling him your story – that can be incredibly soothing and comforting for a vet who might feel like he has no one to talk to, no one who understands or who will just listen. Dogs will do that.”
“The statistics show that 22 veterans commit suicide every day. That’s one every hour. If I can save just one by getting a dog out to him, that’s what I want to do.”
Trouble is, it takes some dollars to start a non-profit and so Paddock, a resident of Anoka, has begun soliciting donations to get Serving Soldiers going.
“I have the means and the ability to do it. I just need the start-up money,” said Paddock, who is owner and trainer at Sit Means Sit dog training facility in Spring Lake Park.
According to Paddock, initial costs to get Serving Soldiers off the ground run around $5,000 and he’s got a fund-raising campaign at gofundme.com to raise that money.
Other non-profits, Paddock said, charge between $10,000 and $30,000 to train a service dog, but he believes he can do that at a much reduced cost.
To buy a dog, he said, costs between $500 and $1,500. Veterinary costs – spay or neuter procedures, vaccinations, etc. – cost $300 to $400 and the basic costs of food, toys and equipment during the one- to two-month long training time run around $1,200 to $2,000.
Paddock would donate his training services.
“So I know we can do it much cheaper than $10,000 to $30,000, but we will be working on donations only and every dollar helps,” said Paddock.
To make a donation for Serving Soldiers, visit www.gofundme.com/592pwc.
For more information about Serving Soldiers, call 763-913-8546.
Sue Austreng is at [email protected]