OMAHA, Neb. (KMTV) — Liz Higley has walked a mile in the shoes of the people she helps.
Higley: “Hey, Barney, come! Hi! That's a good boy. Come here.”
About eight years ago, she was diagnosed with complex PTSD.
“When I was diagnosed with that, I started looking into what my options were for a service dog and there weren't any. Basically, for PTSD, if you're not a veteran, it's really, really difficult,” said Higley.
With a degree in animal science and a decade of zoo experience, she set out to “be the change.”
In 2017, Higley opened Uplifting Paws. It is a nonprofit specializing in companion animals.
“Barney's actually going to go work for Lancaster County,” she said.
The nine-and-a-half-month-old golden retriever will support social services and law enforcement as well as help comfort people at the courthouse.
His six different handlers have already started their training.
“So, they have to know how to work with him (and) how to utilize him in their daily life,” said Higley.
In all, Barney will get more than seven months of instruction.
“We've been training him as a service dog in training. That was the original intent for him. But, we noticed that he really, really likes people,” said Higley.
And that's how Barney became a therapy dog, similar to his aunt Indy, who helps kids in Omaha at CRCC.
Therapy dogs work in groups as compared to service dogs. Those dogs are trained for one individual person.
“Maxx is getting placed with a child with autism,” said Higley.
He'll help keep the boy's meltdowns from getting worse, pick up medicine, noise-canceling headphones and even act as a weighted blanket.
The three-year-old golden doodle will be ready this summer.
Barney may be ready by early fall. That all depends on how quickly he matures.
At Uplifting Paws, the dogs come from different sources including shelters, rescues and purebred litters.
To learn more visit: upliftingpaws.org