They say all dogs go to heaven. If that’s the case, Cathy King and her tireless crew at Canines With A Cause (CWAC), a non-profit program created to save healthy, adoptable dogs from high-kill shelters and place them with veterans as loving companions and assistance dogs – have served as guardian angels.
The program, founded in Salt Lake City, Utah, nearly a decade ago and introduced into Idaho in early 2019, harnesses the untapped potential of shelter dogs to save three lives in one go. It starts with a rescued dog, who, after extensive evaluation by professional trainers, is sent to a participating prison where vetted inmates are afforded the opportunity to give back some of what they’ve taken from their community by working to train the pooch as a service animal. Finally, the service dog is paired with a military veteran who has completed an eight-week Beginning Handler Course.
Once paired, the veteran and their new companion undergo up to 24 months of comprehensive training, dependent on the veteran’s needs. At any given time Canines With a Cause has approximately 70 veterans actively training and more than 100 others on the waiting list. By providing military veterans with a service dog at no cost to them, this organization empowers all participants – the dogs, the inmates, and the veterans – with a new purpose that can heal emotional and psychological wounds, and provide unconditional love, support and companionship.
“The act of training their own dog becomes part of the therapy,” explains Cathy. “Vets have to engage with people when they take their dog out for walks, or go to the store to buy food. For some vets these simple acts are huge milestones in their recovery.”