Dog Tag Buddies helps Montana veterans

Dog Tag Buddies is a Montana non-profit organization. Founder Deede Baker said her goal is to help veterans and dogs at the same time.

She rescues dogs, then pairs them with a veteran.

The veteran will then train the dog from to start to finish to become a service dog.

"My husband served in Iraq in 2004 and 2005," Baker said. "He had his first direct hit of an IED Presidents Day of 2005. It exploded about 4 ft off the door of his Humvee. When he called me to tell me that it had happened, that was the first thing he said. 'I just want you to know everybody's OK.' We didn't realize at the time that that wasn't the end of it."

Baker's husband was diagnosed with a traumatic brain injury and post-traumatic stress disorder once returning home from his 18-month deployment in Iraq.

He decided medication was not the answer.

"When he came home, if he had been out in the shop or if he was working or had a really bad day, he'd go home and sit down on the floor," Baker said. "And he'd just sit there with the dogs and I could see an instant change in him."

And that is how Dog Tag Buddies was born.

Deede started this non-profit as a way to give veterans the option to heal without medication.

"When I came home from Iraq between 2009 and 2015, I was given over a period of time over 42 different medications to help with anxiety and sleep," Veteran Ashley Unruh said. "It was a trial and error, you know, try this one. Oh, that doesn't work, try this one. At this point, right now in my life, I don't take any medications.

Unruh said this program and her dog Lefty, changed her life.

"Along with her and then healthy lifestyle choices, it makes it really easy to feel good about yourself again."

Deede said Ashley is one of many vets whose lives were changed through dog tag buddies.

"I had a veteran who, when he first started the program, he was adamant he needed a service dog," Baker said. "So we found a dog for him, but he struggled to come to training. He had so much anxiety there were days that he would pull into the parking lot and it was hard to even get him out of the truck. At the end of the obedience training, he said, 'I don't need to have a service dog. I need this dog.'"

To find out more about Dog Tag Buddies, click here. 

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