BUFFALO, N.Y. — What looks like your average dog training class is anything but.
These pups are the newest recruits to Pawsitive For Heroes, a service dog training program founded by WNY Heroes co-founder Chris Kreiger.
Kreiger knows all too well the therapeutic benefits of service dogs.
As an Army soldier, he was injured in Iraq by a roadside bomb. That bomb ended his life as he knew it. That bomb ignited his own personal war.
"It wasn't until after we came home when seizures started and ended up in and out of the hospital for quite a while," Kreiger said.
After multiple surgeries, Kreiger was incapacitated. He lost his job, his home, his marriage … before long, he wanted to lose his life.
That is when fate stepped in.
At the same time, when Kreiger was at his lowest, there was a dog down on his luck at the shelter. His name was Bubba. Kreiger’s children had been urging their dad to get a dog, hoping it might help him.
But he resisted.
Finally, Kreiger gave in. And little did they know when they adopted Bubba, not only did they rescue that dog, but that dog would help rescue their father.
“After a couple of months I knew I was changing. I felt different. My kids saw it. I didn't want to admit to them that, yes, I felt different,” Kreiger said.
With training, Bubba the Pound Dog became Bubba the Service Dog.
“I figured, it worked for me it's got to work for everyone else,” he said.
And just like that, Pawsitive For Heroes was born; 95 percent of the dogs trained for service animals are rescue dogs.
One-hundred percent of them are life changers, like Nadia.
“She has helped me get back out into the community, to be able to go grocery shopping in different locations, movie theatres, dinner with friends," said Trisha Kozack, a retired Air Force sergeant.
Kozack has been paired with Nadia for three years and says this program is more than life changing.
“In fact, I would say it’s probably saved many people as well, yes," she says.
Pawsitive For Heroes has placed over 170 service dogs all across the country. To fully train a service dog, it costs about $5,000. Each dog is given free of charge to qualifying veterans.
Pawsitive For Heroes funds this program through the generosity of donors and through fundraisers like the one they are having Saturday, May 27 at 1 p.m. at 1001 E. Delavan Street in Buffalo.
For more information, or you would like to donate: https://pawsitiveforheroes.org/