As a “streetwise crime reporter [and] hard-bitten war correspondent,” Men’s Health contributing editor Drury considered himself a “tough guy”—until he decided to write about the nonprofit paws4people, which trains therapy dogs to work with veterans suffering from PTSD.
The organization—which now includes offshoots paws4vets, paws4prisons, and paws4reading—began 14 years ago when Terry Henry, who was trying to cope with the aftermath of field experiences as a counterintelligence officer, accompanied his daughter Kyria and their dog to nursing homes to cheer up elderly shut-ins. Their visits soon branched out to special education classes in their local schools. Over time, they broadened the scope of their activities to include breeding and training services. Henry was so uplifted by the experience, the author writes, that “he threw himself into the cause of healing others through the power of dogs”—and in the process, he healed himself. He and Kyria have placed dogs in the homes of more than 400 children and veterans with physical and mental disabilities, at no charge. In 2010, they were approved by the Department of Defense to run a pilot program to train service dogs to assist veterans on a long-term basis. They solicit contributions to support their operation, which costs approximately $35,000 per dog, and they rely on recruitment of prison inmates as volunteer trainers (as an accredited part of inmate vocational training). Drury traveled with Henry and observed life-changing moments not only for the new dog owners, but also for prisoners whose lives were transformed by becoming trainers. He also chronicles painful occasions when Henry was forced to exclude an unsuitable trainer from the program or eliminate a veteran incapable of forming a relationship to a dog. Even this formerly hard-bitten reporter notes how he teared up on occasion.
Overly sentimental but a great story nevertheless.