Rural Missouri - August 2021 - 18

by Heather Berry
hberry@ruralmissouri.coop
F
ear is something former combat
engineer John Lopez and his
fellow soldiers dealt with daily
as part of the 37th Engineer
Battalion. While serving in Afghanistan,
John's job was to help ensure
his unit avoided roadside bombs
along their routes.
" I remember our first sergeant
talking to us about 'getting rid of our
fears' when we return home, " recalls
the veteran. " Mine was a very real
fear of dogs. "
After being bitten by a dog as a
child, John had carried a fear of the
animal all through his life. It wasn't
until the first sergeant was killed by
mortar fire that his words came into
perspective for John. As he headed
home from duty in 2007, John knew
he needed to tackle his fear head-on.
Applying techniques learned while
group with a three-fold mission: help
veterans with PTSD and other issues,
help rescue healthy shelter dogs who
need homes and help inmates rehabilitate
their lives.
Adds John, " Another goal is to
Ray, a veteran, and his dog, Kelce, are inseparable.
photo courtesy K9s for Camo
on missions, John began studying the work of experts in
canine psychology and used the knowledge for behavioral
training with dogs. The Rogersville man began training
canines for clients and soon animal shelters reached out to
John to assist with challenged rescues.
The entrepreneur opened a boarding and training facility,
Howliday Inn Pet Resort, in Rogersville. Groups including
Labs for Liberty and Missouri Patriot Paws reached out for
his training assistance, and the Missouri Department of Corrections
asked John to help them select dogs for and train
inmates in the Puppies On Parole program.
Today, John is the founder of K9s for Camo, a nonprofit
provide these service dogs at no cost
to veterans, " noting those costs can
easily go up to $9,000. Donations and
grants are a majority of what makes
the dogs available for veterans.
" Right now, our country loses 22
veterans each day to suicide, " John
continues. " Knowing K9s for Camo
is helping enrich so many lives is an
amazing feeling. "
A dog's journey from shelter to
service has many steps. First, shelter
dogs are assessed for temperament
and potential. Then the furry candidates
are taken to K9s for Camo
headquarters at the Howliday Inn Pet
Resort where trainers evaluate the
dogs' ability to learn specific tasks to
assist a veteran. A veterinarian gives
the dog a thorough exam and confirms he or she is healthy
and ready to train.
On the paperwork end of things, it's around this point a
veteran who has applied for a dog is matched to a potential
furry friend. The trainers begin more rigorous obedience
and home manner training, then dogs are sent to boot
camp at the Ozarks Correctional Center where inmates live
24/7 with an assigned dog. Inmates continue specific task
training and help canine recruits obtain their first AKC
certification, a process which averages 8 to 12 weeks.
" That's when the dogs are returned to us for their public
access training and fine tuning, " says Michael Miller, K9s
Bottom left: Gunner is a constant companion for his veteran partner. " I can't imagine the world without him. He watches over me, " says the Springifield
veteran. Bottom right: K9s for Camo trainer Michael Miller works with a sweet dog named Jane as she trains to retreive medications an owner might drop.
XX RURAL MISSOURI | AUGUST 2021

Rural Missouri - August 2021

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Rural Missouri - August 2021

Rural Missouri - August 2021 - Cover1
Rural Missouri - August 2021 - Cover2
Rural Missouri - August 2021 - 3
Rural Missouri - August 2021 - 4
Rural Missouri - August 2021 - 5
Rural Missouri - August 2021 - 6
Rural Missouri - August 2021 - 7
Rural Missouri - August 2021 - 8
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Rural Missouri - August 2021 - 40
Rural Missouri - August 2021 - 41
Rural Missouri - August 2021 - 42
Rural Missouri - August 2021 - 43
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Rural Missouri - August 2021 - 49
Rural Missouri - August 2021 - 50
Rural Missouri - August 2021 - Cover3
Rural Missouri - August 2021 - Cover4
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https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/ruralmissouri/201312
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