Rescued Dogs Training to Help Arizona Veterans

Trained by inmates, a family of abandoned German Shepherds are on their way to becoming service dogs for veterans.
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Bark Busters Trainer Interviewed by Arizona TV for Veterans Day

It’s a story of hope, resilience, and service, and Bark Busters is at the center.

A German Shepherd was found on the side of a highway, guarding her three puppies inside a box. Thanks to the help of a good Samaritan, all four dogs survived, and they’re now supporting local veterans.

Beth and her three puppies, Valor, Liberty, and Honor, were brought to the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office Animal Safe Haven (MASH) program, where inmates train dogs. However, instead of putting the pups up for adoption, they are now preparing to become service dogs through collaboration with the organization Soldier’s Best Friend. Beth is paired up with a disabled veteran and is on her way to becoming a fully licensed service dog! Her pups are not far behind - after living at MASH and working with inmates on rehabilitation (in both ways!) they've "graduated" and are now living with Bark Busters clients, who are also veterans, helping them to prepare for their next steps!

Central to this story is Bark Busters Master Dog Trainer and Behavioral Therapist Michelle Willey. Michelle not only owns and operates Bark Busters Home Dog Training Greater Phoenix but is also the Head Trainer, a volunteer position, for MASH. In addition to being a business owner and community volunteer extraordinaire, she's also a military mom, and helping veterans is central to her mission. Michelle notes that when these dogs were found and rescued by MASH "they began their mission... which was not only to be healed but to heal."

Mik Milem, Executive Director of Soldier’s Best Friend, says pairing the dogs with veterans is a six- to nine-month process. “All of these veterans are living with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) or a Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI); that’s how they get into our program. The dogs are trained for basic obedience, and then they are trained to do specific tasks for those veterans with symptoms of PTSD or TBI,” he explained.

Michelle put it best when she said, "I love that we took some awful person’s throw away dogs and made them into something great. They will serve their community and humanity. Even if sometimes not all of humanity deserves them."

This Veterans Day, in honor of Michelle Willey of Bark Busters Greater Phoenix, of Beth and her amazing puppies, and of all the people that played such an important role in this story, Bark Busters will be making a donation to A Soldier's Best Friend, an Arizona-based 501(c)3 nonprofit dedicated to pairing and training service dogs with eligible veterans at no cost to the veteran.

“Bark Busters USA is proud of the work our local business owners are doing, not just for their clients, but for their communities,” said Carl Peterson, CEO.

A brief overview of this story was done by Arizona Family Channel 3/5 yesterday, click here to watch the segment.

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