Tyler’s Camp V graduates first service dogs from training program

Published: Apr. 6, 2022 at 3:05 PM CDT|Updated: Apr. 6, 2022 at 10:56 PM CDT
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TYLER, Texas (KLTV) - An East Texas organization that aims to help veterans is doing so in the form of service dogs.

The first two dogs have graduated from Camp V’s inaugural service dog training program in Tyler. Both dogs passed their public access test, which is the final step for these dogs to become certified. The dogs and owners have gone through a minimum of 100 training hours over a five week period. Camp V’s Executive Director Travis Gladhill said some training programs send the dogs away from the owners until training is done.

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“The problem with that, especially when it comes to veterans, is the fact that a lot of times these veterans live on their own and these dogs are their only companions,” Gladhill said. “So when you take that dog away, you’re increasing their anxiety because that is their only companion.”

Judy Parsons leads the class and has been training dogs in the Tyler area for more than 25 years. She said to qualify for the class the dog needs a specific level of obedience already.

“Week one we make sure that everybody is on a good firm page on their regular obedience. Then we discuss the skills that the dog needs to benefit the veteran in his daily life,” Parsons said.

Today the veterans got to test the work they’ve put in the last five weeks. The dogs were put in a dining room scenario, sit and wait, and had to pass a distraction portion. Veteran Gary Scott and his dog Ranger have formed a closer bond through training.

“I have learned what he likes and don’t like and I think he’s learned the same from me. We’ve bonded real well,” Scott said.

Sammie Braswell said thanks to the training and certification that he and his dog Fezzik have earned, he’s excited for an upcoming family vacation.

“To have him along to kind of calm me down, it’s going to be awesome. I’m actually looking forward to a trip instead of just dreading it because of how stressful it’ll be. I’m actually looking forward to it,” Braswell said.

For Scott, Ranger has been able to help him in situations at home as well. Scott said he was on the phone with someone and they couldn’t hear him so he talked louder.

“He (Ranger) thought I was upset, having an episode. He comes from the dining room, walks into the living room where I’m sitting and puts his head on my leg and telling me like, that’s it. Calm down dad,” Scott said. “I was really blown away with that. That’s pretty phenomenal.”

Braswell said if someone comes up behind him in public Fezzik will put a barrier between him and the individual to create a barrier so he doesn’t get startled. He also says his dog helps ground him while he’s driving.

“Especially in Tyler traffic, we know it can get a little crazy. Where he will put his head on my arm or if my arm isn’t on the rest he’ll put it on my shoulder to ground me. Let me know, hey, you’re okay. Just calm down,” Braswell said.

The class costs $120 and Camp V has financial assistance if needed. For more information about the class or to sign up visit Camp V’s website.

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