JEFFERSON COUNTY, Pa. (WTAJ) – Pawsitive for Heroes, A New York based organization helping veterans dealing with PTSD, is expanding into Pennsylvania.

The program matches veterans with service dogs, all with the goal to help to save lives. Started in 2013 by Chris Kreiger, who suffered from PTSD and suicidal thoughts after returning from Iraq.

Since then, Chris and his team have helped more than 80 veterans in New York. And now they expand into Pa., with the hopes of leaving no veteran behind.

Veterans living in Clearfield and Jefferson counties can apply for a service dog at the Pawsitive for Heroes website here. There are currently three vets here in Pa. in that process.

The first 10 dogs will be funded by the VA. Afterwards, funding will rely entirely on donations, as is the case with the program in New York. The total cost of training is $7,500 per dog.

With a high veteran population in the area, David Reitz, the Jefferson county director of Veteran Affairs believes this program can have a tremendous impact on the area, helping vets who may be struggling with day-to-day tasks.

“Having that service dog can give you that space in the line either in front of you or behind you. You know your dog has your six, so you’re not worried about that,” Kreiger said.

Veterans and their dogs are matched based on what service connection disability they are dealing with. Once matched they go through training together. Working together weekly, Kaleigh Bell, from Shaylah’s K-9, who runs these training sessions tells WTAJ they usually go through one-hour sessions once a week, typically taking 16-18 weeks to complete their training. She says it’s amazing seeing the confidence come back from session one, to completion.

“It’s almost like we’ve got a whole brand new person. We’ve got someone that’s able to enjoy their life again,” Bell said.

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