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JAVELAN 'transforming lives' through service dog training at no cost to veterans

Posted at 8:01 PM, Jul 18, 2023
and last updated 2023-07-18 21:01:49-04

OMAHA, Neb. (KMTV) — In May, we introduced you to Scott Henry and Bear.

Henry is an Army veteran who suffered a stroke in 2021, while Bear was set to be euthanized in Texas, before Vets Get Pets got the pair together.

“You know, it’s both of our second chances in life, and it’s been pretty special so far,” Henry said during our original interview in May.

Now they’re going through service dog training thanks to another veteran organization.

“It sounds a little cliche, but we literally do transform lives,” JAVELAN Director Mike Kraus said.

JAVELAN was founded in 2017. It all started when veteran Bob Dean’s wife, Charlotte, who is also a veteran, approached him with an idea.

“After spending some time with the VA and suffering from a lot of anxiety, a lot of PTSD-related issues, she came to me and said she wanted a service dog,” Bob remembers.

It was a big ask.

“At that time a service dog was $25,000 to $35,000 with a two- to three-year waiting list,” Bob recalls. “It was unattainable for most vets — it was kind of unattainable for us.”

However, they went through a different kind of program where Charlotte was taught how to train her service dog, Jack, and the proof was in the pudding.

“She went from basically not leaving the house to jumping on airplanes and flying all over to see family and friends,” Bob said.

Bob, Charlotte, and three others then created JAVELAN so other veterans could receive the help and support that Charlotte had.

The acronym that represents the program's name, JAVELAN, is in honor of Jack’s impact on the Deans: Jack Assisting Veterans to Enjoy Life Again.

The program falls under the umbrella of the First Responders Foundation. A partnership Bob says made for a perfect match.

The only thing the veterans going through the six-to-nine-month program need to pay for is the $25 application fee.

“We provide customized training and service dogs for veterans and first responders,” Kraus said.

The $3,000 to $5,000 it takes to get each team through the customized program is covered by JAVELAN through donations and grants.

To make this happen the4 group had to start small.

“We had a goal of doing six teams a year. We thought we could financially come up with that money,” Bob said. “We thought that would make a mark in the community.”

Now, they’re making an even larger mark on the community.

“We’ve got about 30 people currently at some sort of training stage right now,” Kraus shared.

More than 115 members have graduated from the program since its inception six years ago.

“I’m just amazed at what our trainers, our staff, and our volunteers all have been able to do,” Bob said. “I never fathomed that we would be at this point.”

Though still at the beginning of their journey, Bear is already showing what he is capable of.

“One morning I was in bed, and I had a low blood sugar of 56,” Henry said. “Bear actually came up and made sure I got out of bed, checked my sugar, and got something to eat.”

In fact, during my interview with Henry, you can see in the video that Bear came up and was comforting and alerting Henry. This was most likely due to Henry being nervous or anxious during the interview.

Bob told me about a time his dog, Duke, alerted him about his own health issues.

“Coincidentally he started alerting on my cardiac issues about three years ago,” Bob shared.

Similar to Charlotte’s story, Henry says one of the biggest benefits of life with Bear is getting him out of isolation.

“I used to sit around the house doing nothing. Now I walk two miles a day,” Henry said. “The main thing is companionship and bringing a new meaning to life.”

“We literally pull people out of their basement and back into society,” Kraus added.

Cheryl Wilson is a trainer and behaviorist at Bonafide Dog Academy in Omaha, and one of the trainers used by the program. Like everyone else who makes the program happen her work is volunteer.

“To help these veterans out, and get out, and feel comfortable, and enjoy life. That’s what’s so important,” Wilson said.

The program says the next goal is to expand to Lincoln, Kearney, Norfolk and western Iowa.

One of the biggest difficulties Bob says they have is fundraisers. Because the program is so small it’s difficult to host their own fundraisers.

If you would like to pair up with JAVELAN for a fundraiser, volunteer your time, or apply to enroll in the program – click here.

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