Veterans meet their service dogs for the first time - WSIL-TV 3 Southern Illinois

Veterans meet their service dogs for the first time

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CARBONDALE -- It's often said first impressions are everything, and a group of veterans met their new service dogs with smiling faces and tears on Sunday.

"I was just trying my hardest to bond, just to meet him and be as open as I can," said Marine veteran Steven Hayes, who was paired with a year and half old service dog named Thor through This Able Veteran. "That's what I was thinking about."

It's a match trainer Tally Fralish said keeps her doing it again and again.

"When I see them matched, it's like they're meant to be," Fralish said. "They're meant to be and they're going to make their lives better."

Many returning veterans carry the hidden scars of war, and these specially trained dogs work to comfort and help veterans with their individual needs.

"I know Thor here isn't going to look at me any different with anything I tell him or hold any judgment or bad feelings or anything," Hayes said. 

Tally said many veterans face trauma, and a companion helps to deal with the day to day struggle of adjusting to everyday life.

"We're giving them the tools to work through their trauma and how they're going to take it out in their lives," Fralish said. "It's not just giving them a dog and sending them on their way. We really work with them because we care about them."

The veterans will now go through a three-week long training course to learn how to handle the dogs and become more acquainted with them.

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