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Changing Veterans' Lives With Service Dogs

Pictured: Retired U.S. Army veteran Clayton Irons has been one of many Road Home Program participants to benefit from the Regenstein Service Dog Initiative for Veterans.
Susan Regenstein saw a problem and a possible solution: Veterans often need specialized care, and service dogs can help with an array of physical and psychological challenges.
Regenstein, a supporter of Rush, connected with The Road Home Program: The National Center of Excellence for Veterans and Their Families at Rush and learned how they provide specific physical and mental health care for veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD, and other challenges. Road Home staff shared recent findings of the powerful role that service dogs can play in the recovery of a veteran suffering from PTSD.  Together, the Road Home Program and Regenstein created the Regenstein Service Dog Initiative for Veterans.
“The Road Home Program does phenomenal, unique things for veterans, and this is a great example,” said Regenstein.
The service dogs help veterans connect better with civilian life by relieving anxiety and tension, while encouraging social interaction as a counter to the withdrawal that often goes hand-in-hand with PTSD.
“Without the Regenstein Foundation’s support, we wouldn’t have been able to offer this option for our veterans in the Road Home Program,” said William Beiersdorf, executive director of Road Home Program.
The Regenstein Foundation donated $1.5 million to cover costs for training and pairing of dogs with more than 90 veterans with diagnosed need during the next three years, as well as ongoing costs for the dogs, including veterinary visits, food and continued training. 
“Major has changed my life,” said Clayton Irons, a retired U.S. Army veteran who was paired with his dog, Major, in September 2016. “Before Major, I didn’t see how pretty the sky was because I was always looking down. With him, I’m now looking up, and I see it all.”