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For the past three years, Greg and his dog, Boltun, have attended weekly Pets N Vets training sessions through the Dunes Dog Training Club. Pets N Vets is a program that provides free service dog training classes to Veterans who suffer from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder/Traumatic Brain Injuries and emotional disorders. Greg is a medically retired Navy Veteran who was in need of a service dog.
Greg adopted Boltun, a Siberian Husky, from the Starke County Humane Society in North Judson. Although Boltun was not initially intended to be a service dog, Greg heard about the Pets N Vets program at his local Veterans Association and decided to train him to combat his difficulties with hearing and PTSD. Boltun’s job is to block large crowds and potential danger, as well as listening for Greg. Boltun goes almost everywhere with Greg, acting as another part of him.
Although Boltun is a friendly, talkative dog, he still knows when he needs to be in action. Once when Greg and Boltun were out in public, a man was being disruptive. Rather than allowing Greg to become uncomfortable, Boltun diverted him and prevented a dangerous situation. He also added that Boltun stared at the man to let him know he meant business. To this day, Greg is still grateful for Boltun’s responsiveness and the training that he went through to stay safe.
Greg’s advice to any veteran who is in need of a service dog is to let the dog choose you. He says, “You don’t choose the dog, the dog chooses you.” He also says to have a lot of patience and to not give up because training a dog is going through the repetition of commands and dogs work at their own pace.
Pet N Vets was started in 2012 as a way for Dunes Dog Training Club to give back to veterans suffering from PTSD despite the government’s cut to funding for Veteran service dogs. Pets N Vets has helped train over 65 pairs of Veterans and dogs, eleven of them officially receiving their Service Dog title. United Way of Porter County recently partnered with Pets N Vets to help give Veterans the needed comfort of “man’s best friend."
For more information about Dunes Dog Training Club, visit their website.
Special thanks to Evonne Le, Hayley Krulik, Cameron Nenn, Holly Reuss, and Kathryn Ruttke for this story.