DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) – Sully was already so famous that he has his own Instagram account. Now, the picture of the yellow labrador’s dutiful service after President George H.W. Bush’s passing has taken social media by storm.
It’s also raising awareness of how much these animals can help owners with physical and emotional struggles, and that’s especially true of the nation’s veterans.
“Veterans need to know that they are not alone,” says Melissa Caposello, President, DFW Canines for Veterans, “and there’s more than just what they think is out there.”
Caposello say she was raised in a military family and now lives with a rare form of muscular dystrophy. Her service animal, an 8 year old Doberman named ‘Isis’ helps her remain independent.
“She gives me a lot of freedom to walk around, to do things, I’m not normally able to do,” explains Caposello, “she basically gave me my life back.”
So it makes sense that Caposello has made it her life’s work to help disabled veterans or those struggling with PTSD. She and Carrie Caposello 17 years ago co-founding DFW Canines for Veterans. Carrie Caposello now works as the non-profit’s Director of Training.
“I didn’t realize how deep and dark a hole I had gotten into,” admits veteran Ryan Henderson. Henderson admits that he has at times been a reluctant client– not realizing he needed support as much as the veterans he was looking to help. He’s now on the board and is an enthusiastic supporter of the non-profit’s approach.
“We wanted a family, versus, ‘okay here is your dog’,” explains Melissa Caposello. At DFW Canines for Veterans, the owners are coached and taught how to train their own service animals. With Caposello adding that the “brotherhood” and camaraderie is also a huge part of what helps the former service members heal.
“These guys don’t just go home and wrap their arms around these animals and it makes everything all better. It’s a process. They’re not a machine,” explains Henderson, who also helps with the training. “So you’ve got to mold yourself as well as the animal. You can’t get frustrated. You can’t just give up.”
Because like Sully, these animals have shown that they will stay faithful until beyond the very end.
“Veterans need to know… there’s more than just what they think is out there,” says Caposello.
The non-profit provides all of their services to veterans free of charge and is run by volunteers. For more information about it click here.
“They think they’re alone and they’re not,” adds Melissa Caposello. “They don’t have to wait 7 years for a service dog.”