Wichita non-profit earns $1,200 to train service dogs for veterans

Published: Nov. 1, 2021 at 9:45 PM CDT
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WICHITA, Kan. (KWCH) - Toney Turner remembers a conversation with a veteran desperate for a service dog but facing an exhaustive search for one who met his needs.

“He was in dire straits,” Turner said. “Everywhere he looked, he either couldn’t get a service dog or it was a two- to three-year waiting list. They can’t wait two to three years. They need help and they need it now.”

Turner, an Army veteran from Wichita, provides that help through his nonprofit Kevlar K-9, where he uses his talent for dog training to enhance the lives of fellow servicemembers. He trains service dogs for veterans who need help for a variety of reasons, including PTSD, seizures, anxiety and diabetes.

“Our veterans are dying when they’re coming home, and that’s the only reason we have this, is to try to help stop it,” Turner said.

To assist with logistical needs, KWCH and DeVaughn James Injury Lawyers awarded Kevlar K-9 a $1,200 Helping Hand, and several businesses are supporting the organization with a donation drive and fundraiser ahead of Veterans Day.

“That’ll help us with (veterinarian) bills and the adoption fees, along with helping pay for gas for our veterans to come train,” Turner said. “We’ve got veterans from Nebraska, Kansas, Iowa, and Oklahoma. We get them from all over, so this will be a tremendous help.”

Turner has been in the same place as the veterans he and his service dogs assist. Turner’s dog Nox helps with Turner’s anxiety and a separate medical condition. When Turner falls to the floor during one of his episodes, Nox runs to him and scoots beneath him to protect against a seizure.

Securing dogs for veterans isn’t always easy, which is why the organization depends on donations from businesses and the public. Depending on the disability or challenge, Turner said training service dogs to meet veterans’ needs can cost thousands of dollars. The only cost to veterans is a $200 application fee.

Reflecting on one veteran he’s helped, Turner said, “He now goes to recitals and on vacations and such now, when before he wasn’t leaving his home for months at a time.”

Dog lovers know furry companions can make life better for anyone. That’s especially true for veterans in need of the skills the dogs learn through this specialized training.

Army veteran Ashley Aimes said adopting her service dog was life-changing.

“That hope again to be able to go out in public and do things I used to do,” Aimes said of how she has been reinvented. “It’s that hope.”

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