Local Army veteran aims to train dogs to help ease PTSD
A Las Vegas Valley veteran said he believes he has a possible solution to help veterans who return from serving our country. He's decided to train dogs for helping with PTSD and other injuries, using the therapy of man's best friend.
Army veteran Alex Velez loves to play with his dogs Duke, a golden retriever, and Tux, a very young German shepherd. Duke is his service dog; Tux is being trained by copying his more experienced and older friend, Duke.
Velez has history with service dogs. While serving in Afghanistan, Velez had a military dog named Ranger.Velez was injured overseas. He hurt his leg and suffered damage to his brain and his left eye. He ended up with a service dog named Velcro. Unfortunately Velcro passed away. But he now has Duke.
Velez understands firsthand the bonding that happens with man and dog. He wishes his friend, Allison Ausmus, had a dog to help her cope with post-traumatic stress disorder. "Nobody was taking her seriously because they couldn't see it, and it got worse," Velez says.
Ausmus took her life, and now Velez is devoting his life to creating a program of service dogs that help veterans returning from combat with PTSD and other mental health issues.
"Some mental health is an invisible wound. We have veterans who are coming back and they cannot adjust because they have post-traumatic stress," Velez says.
Velez is in the process of earning a Ph.D, and his dissertation focuses on service dogs that can help with mental health. He hopes to present his research to Congress in the near future. In the meantime, he remains committed to helping veterans through dogs.
Tux has six more months of training, and then he will go to a veteran to help him move in a wheelchair.