• May 21, 2024
  • 4:55 PM

A Night of Politely Palling Around with the Veterans K-9 Corps in Reno

If someone says, “dog training,” what comes to mind? Chances are it’s not sitting on the patio of a local restaurant, ordering food and drinks. But this is full on dog training. While a waitress brings small, cardboard containers full of water to each individual dog, Bill Long, one of the Veterans K-9 Corps instructors explains, “This is teaching each dog how to behave, how to be polite, in a social setting.” The retired Army Colonel has his dog, Rocky, at his feet. Rocky is lying down and is so mellow, the German Shepard nearly fell asleep.

Around the table at the “Great Full Gardens,” located at Legends in Sparks are five other veterans, who are also with their dogs. After dinner, there will be a walk through the shopping center and even a walk inside Scheels. The sporting goods store provides all kinds of distractions. But on this night, even a walk past the dog toys section didn’t result in one display of bad behavior. “I can’t tell you how many dogs Scheels has helped us train, but it’s been a lot. They have been really good to us,” said Long.

Maria Ruvalcaba said her dog Blue has changed a lot since she began bringing Blue to K-9 Corps training. “Blue is a rescue and used to be really afraid of everything,” explained Ruvalcaba. “But now, Blue will let others pet her, even rub her belly.” K-9 Corps organizer Eduardo Martinez agrees. His dog is a male Shiba Inu. “Georgie is very shy and was afraid of everything prior to attending these classes,” said Martinez.

The Veterans K-9 Corps is a peer-support collaboration between NDVS and the Truckee Meadows Dog Training Club. The K-9 Corps offers 10-week training sessions that are free to veterans. In addition to socializing the dogs, other sessions include a long list of activities including agility, sniff training, and more. In addition to dog training, the program creates connections between participating veterans who share a common love for their K-9 companions.

“One of the most heavily cited protective factors for helping veterans overcome PTSD, depression, and other mental health challenges is having strong, healthy social connections,” said Amy Garland, NDVS Deputy Director of Health Care Services. “This program not only provides a sense of shared purpose but helps build strong connections between veterans with common interests.”

If you’re a veteran and own a dog and would like to be part of the K-9 Corps next session, send an email to martineze@veterans.nv.gov for dates and registration information. Participants meet at the Truckee Meadows Dog Training Center and local parks during the 10-week course to prepare their dog for the Canine Good Citizen test. All must abide by COVID-19 restrictions. The dog’s up-to-date shot record is required.