RAPID CITY, S.D. (KOTA TV) Every year, thousands of veterans come back home, but that transition isn't always easy. So Big Paws Canine Foundation works to pair vets, as well as first responders, with service dogs.
But, these dogs can cost anywhere from $6,000 to $35,000. And this is how Big Paws helps. They provide service dogs free of charge, and the only fee is $12 a year for continued education and training.
For Terry Brown, this is how he turned his pet into a service animal.
Brown served 9 and a half years in the U.S. Air Force, and deployed four times. He is a part of the 20 percent of veterans who served in Iraq or Afghanistan that suffer from PTSD.
Every day was a struggle, until Zeus, a four-year-old pit-bull, came into his life. He adopted Zeus as a pet, but when he noticed that his dog could pick up on his aggressions, he started to wonder if he could be a service dog.
"I started looking at different commands and what he needed to become one and months later I ran into friend who told me about Big Paws Canine Foundation," said Brown.
He took Zeus to Big Paws, where he was evaluated and observed. Once they saw him as a good fit for a service dog, he began training.
But, there is one problem. Big Paws is located in Sioux Falls, and that's a far drive for consistent training. So now, the foundation is trying to open a training facility in KOTA Territory.
"We know there is a need here, and we aren't meeting the needs," said Terri Jorgenson, a veteran herself and the Event and Education Coordinator for Big Paws Canine Foundation in Western South Dakota. "We are just in the process to raise the money and meet needs of veterans."
Right now, they have 15 veterans in the Black Hills area on their waiting list. Currently they have raised $2,500, but they need to raise $5,000 to buy their first dog.
To help, anyone can donate by writing a check to Big Paws Canine Foundation, and designating it to the Rushmore or Black Hills region.