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DOG T.A.G.S., a service dog program for veterans

CBS 21

Dogs are more than a best friend for local veterans -- they are life savers.

That’s the case for veteran Fawn Adams of Liverpool, Perry county. Her dog Tia is now a service dog, thanks to DOG T.A.G.S. Service Dog Program for Veterans.

In the 8 years Fawn has had Tia she's gone from pet to provider, recognizing when fawn's blood sugar is low, and even recognizing oncoming symptoms from Fawn's traumatic brain injury.

Fawn says, "She picks up on my headaches from the TBI and they have trained me to train her and for me to recognize the difference between the alerts that she gives me."

That's how the DOG T.A.G.S. program works. Veterans can bring their own pet to the Obedience Training Class of Harrisburg (OTCH), and the animal will get evaluated to see if it has the traits and temperament to be a service dog.

If it doesn't, trainers will find another dog for the veteran and train them.

And in the case of Fawn, she and Tia do so well, that they now help train others.

John Salvadia, President of DOG T.A.G.S., says there are about a dozen trainers with various experience, from show dogs to obedience classes.

Twice a week they help the canines learn how to at best save a life, and at least provide emotional support for veterans. Many of whom avoid the public because of a disability.

"One of the guys initially started out like that. I'd take him to outings with me, we'd have speaking engagements or something else like that," John Salvadia said. "I'll look and he's talking to 100 people behind a podium with his dog -- 2 years ago this wouldn't have happened."

Although the focus initially is on the animal, Fawn says she owes so much to the 4 and 2 legged heroes.

"Everybody here is wonderful!" Fawn said. "If it wasn't for them, I wouldn't be standing here today."

John says the only funding DOG T.A.G.S. receives is from donations and grants, so for the first time they are holding a Spaghetti Dinner Fundraiser.

It's Saturday evening, October 22, from 5:00 to 9:00 at the Camp Hill United Methodist Church.

The guest speaker will be veteran SGT. Toby Yarbrough - a PTSD/TBI service dog advocate and author.

Tickets are $18 for anyone over 10 years old. $10 for kids 9 and under and $20 cash only at the door.

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