Shelter dogs serve as service animals for veterans with PTSD - CBS46 News

Shelter dogs serve as service animals for veterans with PTSD

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Source: WGCL Source: WGCL
ATLANTA (CBS46) -

Stephen Akins was a veteran who served four tours in Afghanistan.  He came out in 2014, suffering from PTSD.

Ken Cappello was like a second father to Akins. He had scheduled a visit to get a service dog for Akins on a Saturday, but depression wouldn't wait

"It was too late, and he took his own life," Cappello said. "He took his life on a Thursday night," he added. 

That's when Cappello vowed to help other veterans get help sooner. 

"We made a promise to home that we would start ";IGY6" and try to help as many veterans because there's not enough out there--programs that help our veterans and support them. 

The grassroots non-profit, called,";IGY6 Service Dogs for Heroes." IGY6 is an old military term that means, "I've got your back."

I's run by a dedicated army of volunteers, mostly veterans, who help pair up shelter and rescue dogs with veterans and train them to become certified service dogs. The dogs often lend physical and emotional support for veterans who come back from combat carrying the weight of PTSD. The veterans help train their dogs.

"Each veteran will have a different task [for the dogs]," Cappello said. "It will be nightmares, or stress, or depression, or reminding them to take their medicine. Or, someone that's an amputee. So that's why it's so detailed and takes each two years," he added. 

It's a program that's given Army Veteran Zane Gibbs a news outlook on life. He joined the group for Sunday lunch with his service dog Trooper

"Less than a year after I was there [in the Army], I started having depression issues and this kind of thing, also I was diagnosed at that time as being bipolar," Gibbs said.

Today, he is training Trooper to help him with his health challenges. Trooper, in turn, has a trusted friend.

"He gives me a reason to keep taking that step especially with all I've had going on in the last year," Gibbs said. 

The group says it costs around $30,000 to get the dogs trained. They do it all for free and the veterans don't pay for services or equipment. They are hoping to get more funding and donations to open up a facility that can house and trains the dogs and veterans. 

For more information, visit the organization's website.

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