WEST PALM BEACH, FLA. (WSVN) – A center in Palm Beach county that provides training for veterans’ service dogs is making a big expansion.
Big Dog Ranch Rescue in West Palm Beach currently trains 20 dogs at a time, but soon a plot of land will allow them to double that.
For Purple Heart recipient Terry Braun, having a trained therapy dog can be life-changing, especially for those living with post-traumatic stress disorder.
“Seventy-five of us went in. We lost 38,” he said about his tour of duty.
That’s why Braun values new best friend, Alfred.
“I’m going to rely on him for support. I still have flashbacks. I still have nightmares,” he said.
Alfred is finishing his training at Big Dog Ranch Rescue, but before he made it to South Florida, he was rescued from slaughter at a market in China.
“He was very scared of people. He had his own PTSD,” said Lauree Simmons, Big Dog Ranch’s founder. “Within a few months, these trainers had turned him around.”
And now Big Dog Ranch has big plans to help even more furry friends. They will soon break ground on a facility that will allow them to expand their training program and even board dogs if their owner is deployed.
The 17,000-square-foot facility will have four sections. One will be dedicated to service dog training, and another will board dogs of active duty service members while they are deployed.
“People come to us from all over the country when they’re being deployed, and they’re in tears having to give up their best friend while they go serve our country,” said Simmons. “I decided, after four or five of those, this isn’t right.”
The remaining two sections will be a public boarding facility, open only to the dogs previously adopted from Big Dog Ranch.
“Our goal is that the income we make from the front two wings will offset the cost of the kennel caregivers and the veterinary care for the dogs in training for veterans and for the deployed military dogs,” said Simmons.
Simmons said she plans to break ground on the plot this week. They will be working around the clock to get the facility up and running in the next nine months.
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