Wichita man helps save the lives of Kansas veterans with service dogs

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WICHITA, Kan. (KSNW) – A Wichita man who has been training dogs for years is now helping pair rescue dogs with veterans in hopes of providing relief from PTSD and other combat-related conditions.

At Kevlar K-9, you’ll see lots of skills and quite a few treats.

But, with the vests on that read, “Do Not Touch”, the dogs are performing a duty, much like their owners once did.

“When you’re over there, people have your six all the time,” said Jennifer Trzicky-Lervold, Navy veteran. “When you come back here, you don’t have that all the time.”

Trzicky-Lervold has been diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and Military Sexual Trauma (MST). She said those conditions combined with her frequent nightmares and balance problems make daily life very difficult for her.

But with her K-9 Rebel, she said she’s able to conquer each day.

Turner is helping veterans every day get that same piece of mind back. He said after hearing the suicide statistics for veterans, he wanted to help make a difference.

The K-9’s are trained to help with medical response, balance response, ability assistance and PTSD.

Other abilities the dogs are learning include opening doors, retrieving object, turning lights on and off, food denial and theft prevention that teaches the dog to lock up if someone other than their owner touches the leash.

WEB EXCLUSIVE: Below is a video of a K-9 being trained to retrieve a bottle:

“It’s probably the best feeling that you can imagine because a lot of these veterans haven’t been able to go to school or their kids’ recitals,” said Turner. “To see and hear it from their family members about them getting out and about is great. You’re giving them back a lot that they didn’t have.”

Another K-9, Bella is helping her owner, Shawn Lynch.

Lynch is a former Army ranger who did two tours in Iraq.

“You go through so many scenarios in your head every day of any and everything that can happen,” said Lynch. “So, that is a huge stress that attacks your body.”

But Lynch said with Bella by his side, he’s been able to turn his life around, helping him go to public places and deal with his PTSD, traumatic brain injury and depression.

“[She] makes you feel comfortable,” said Lynch. “Gives you that courage to be able to go through everything and to get through the crowd; go shopping, go to the zoo.”

The training can take anywhere from eight months to two years depending on the veterans needs and all training is customized to the dog and veteran.

Web Exclusive: Below is a video of some of the other skills the dogs are learning. The first skill is how to deny “people food,” the second is medical assistance for an owner who has seizures, and the third is the dog freezing up and refusing to go with someone other than its owner.

That training occurs in the training facility, outside and even in public areas where the veteran may go.

The veterans said it’s worth the time and they encourage others to reach out for similar help.

“It has given us that chance to have our freedom and have our lives back again,” said Trzicky-Lervold.

Turner said the cost of the dogs is covered by sponsors if the dogs are not donated by a rescue.

If you would like more information about Kevlar K-9 or would like to donate, visit the organization’s Facebook page

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