Giving veterans a helping hand, and paw

Giving veterans a helping hand, and paw

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TAMPA (FOX 13) -

It was love at first sight for veteran Steven Shepard and his dog, Zoe.

"We've been working together for two days now and she's gone from an excitable puppy to she's starting to get into it," Shepard explained.

Shepard and Zoe are both in training. Together, they're learning to be service dog and master.

Thanks to K-9's for Veterans, a not-for-profit program in Tampa, disabled veterans like Shepard are paired up with the perfect pooch.

Mike Halley served eight years in the Marine Corps, including two tours in Vietnam. He spent the next nine years suffering with PTSD and finally began his recovery when he got a Doberman pincher.

That's when he found his calling and started K-9's for Veterans.

"If I can help the veterans, that's my goal. Whatever it takes," he told FOX 13.

In the last five years, Halley has helped 85 disabled veterans and soldiers -- with issues from PTSD to traumatic brain injury -- find hope again.

"I can get someone with really, really bad post-traumatic stress disorder and turn it around in two days, just with the dog," he continued.

Halley already sees a change in Shepard after only a couple days with Zoe. He's smiling more, focusing less on his disability and more on the dog.

Shepard sees it too and hopes Zoe can help him break free of his PTSD and get him out of the house more to exercise and socialize.

"You just feel the love, you know. It's tough when you're living alone," he said.

Not anymore. When Shepard goes back home to Boston, he'll be leaving with his new friend, Zoe.


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