Hometown hero: Veteran works to pair therapy dogs with PTSD sufferers

Credit: Credit: Bill Hendrick for the AJC

Credit: Credit: Bill Hendrick for the AJC

More information at pleasefindmydog.com.

An Atlantan suffering from post traumatic stress disorder has enlisted a team of volunteers whose goal is to reduce the startling suicide rate among Iraq-Afghanistan veterans while saving tens of thousands of stray dogs that are euthanized daily.

Will Chase, 46, a veteran of the first Gulf War, has formed an organization, Please Find My Dog, that develops apps for pet owners that give them the power to track lost dogs, keeping the canines out of shelters and helping stave off euthanasia.

The dogs are trained by volunteers in a number of partner groups that are concerned about the high euthanasia rate of sheltered canines as well as the rising rate of suicides among veterans.

Scientists know that dogs can be trained to help veterans with post traumatic stress disorder cope with life. Nobody seems to know quite how or why, but dogs become trusted companions for veterans like Michael Adair, 38, a 17-year Air Force veteran who recently has been paired with a German shepherd named Gypsy.

Adair, who is not allowed to say all he did or has experienced, was stationed for a long time in the east African city state of Djibouti, says he couldn’t do without the dog.

Chase’s organization has developed apps for iTunes and Google that users can download for free. The app, when used on iPhones, Androids or Blackberry devices, provides information on missing dogs, including descriptions and pictures, helping reunite them with owners, for fees ranging from $9 to $19

Please Find My Dog is operated by Dog Scene International, a mobile app-based marketing service that hosts a large database of pets and liaisons with shelters. The app allows alerts, similar to Amber alerts for missing children, to be sent to animal controls and shelters in minutes.

“We put vital information on the app, and it goes out sort of like a text message,” Chase says. “Five dollars of every $19 registration goes to training the dogs through partners like Companions for Heroes, Healing for Heroes and All About Vets.”

Dr. Haley Grove, a veterinarian at Trusted Friend Animal Clinic in Sandy Springs, is one of many groups, including the VFW, supporting Chase’s efforts. She passes out flyers to customers and information about her clinic appears when apps are activated.

“We’re just trying to increase awareness,” she says. “It may help us in terms of more people signing up. And I want to help the veterans and help the dogs, too.”

Chase says from 22 to 28 veterans commit suicide daily, “and we can reduce this through the efforts of us and our partners.”

“Pairing these veterans with animals takes money, $3,000 on average,” says Danielle Tynan of Passion for Paws. “I am hoping that by working together, we can reduce the number of veterans who commit suicide each day [and prevent the decimation] of the homeless animal population.”

Adair says he feels the organizations are “helping our veterans” by providing dogs like Gypsy. “She is helping me heal. She senses when I’m having problems, providing support and comfort. I can’t explain it, but it’s helping.”