‘They feel like they have a buddy’

K2 Solutions, VA pairs K9s with PTSD-suffering military vets

By Kevin Spradlin
PeeDeePost.com

HAMLET — Living with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder can bring on a lonely feeling, one quick to grab hold and adamant about not letting go.

Generally, one can’t fathom what someone with PTSD is going through unless they have experienced it themselves. But there are some creates in the world that seem to have a special trait about them that can sense the best way to help. On Thursday night, those creatures’ names were Audrey, Clark and Henry.

Kevin Spradlin | PeeDeePost.com Audrey, a K2 Solutions-trained service dog, manipulates the light switch at Cole Auditorium during a demonstration.

Kevin Spradlin | PeeDeePost.com
Audrey, a K2 Solutions-trained service dog, manipulates the light switch at Cole Auditorium during a demonstration.

The three labrador retrievers were part of the newly revised K2 Solutions training program. Instead of training dogs to detect explosives in a field of battle, the four-legged critters are taught to be a steadfast companion to someone having trouble transitioning back to civilian life.

PTSD can cause some previously adventurous people to become shut-ins. Dogs like Audrey. Audrey and Rodger Moore, K2’s vice president for business development, teamed up to put on a demonstration at the Buy Local Business Expo on Thursday at Cole Auditorium on the campus of Richmond Community College.

More than four dozen area businesses displayed their products or services, from Dr. Jerry Murphy of Murphy Chiropractic and Wellness — responsible for the strongest grip contest — Richmond County Schools, Tracy McNair and The All Occasion Cake Creator and Maness Tire and Retreading, which through owner Terry Lewis and Bridgestone/Firestone brought out the Indianapolis 500 simulator. The event is coordinated by the Richmond County Chamber of Commerce and is intended to highlight the importance and opportunities of conducting business with local businesses.

Audrey can manipulate door hands, light switches — and she can can give military veterans who have had shown difficulty dealing with the unfathomable a reason to get outdoors. Moore talked in general terms about one such vet, and if it weren’t for the K2-trained service dog, “that veteran would have stayed insid for who knows how long.”

Kevin Spradlin | PeeDeePost.com Service dogs trained by K2 Solutions staff are taught to keep calm, even when a camera is placed in close proximity to their personal space.

Kevin Spradlin | PeeDeePost.com
Service dogs trained by K2 Solutions staff are taught to keep calm, even when a camera is placed in close proximity to their personal space.

But the veteran gained a new sense of freedom with the help of a dog.

“That’s what K2’s all about,” Moore concluded before a large crowd of onlookers.

The program is run through the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. Eric Babin, K2’s senior trainer, said the dogs are provided to qualifying veterans at no cost. Babin said it takes about two years to train a service dog. For the first 14 months, a dog is paired with a foster family. The dog lives, plays and goes to work with family members — exposing the canine to a wide variety of social settings.

“They have a dog they know they can depend on” regardless of the scene, noise level or any other factor, Babin said. “It’s almost like medicine. They feel like they have a buddy, a companion, who’s watching their back.”

Sometimes it’s as simple as the dog being trained to be the barrier between the veteran and anyone else. Veterans with certain experiences don’t like being too close to people, especially strangers.

Kevin Spradlin | PeeDeePost.com

Kevin Spradlin | PeeDeePost.com

Before the dog goes off to live with the veteran, that person comes to the K2 facility and undergoes seven days of training with the animal. Afterwards, VA representatives follow up with the veterans and, if needed, K2 trainers are consulted.

The new program, less than a year old, has helped K2 Solutions evolve. In November, officials of the employee-owned company let staff know that a significant number of workers faced layoffs due to a lack of military contracts. The wars, after all, were winding down.

In January, K2 officials announced a partnership with Richmond Community College to begin a dog training program — yet another step along the path of reinventing the company during peacetime.

Rabin spoke of a VA-led study that aims to show the impact service and emotional support dogs have on military veterans. Emotional support dogs are those that have not been trained for certain tasks but “provide comfort and companionship,” according to a Stars & Stripes report.

* * * 

Ashley-Michelle Thubin, public information officer for Richmond County Schools, nearly startled the woman who reached over to grab a small plastic Richmond Raiders key ring. The woman moved to put the key ring back. But Thuin apologized.

Thubin’s reaction wasn’t to dissuade the woman from taking the keyring, but a demonstration of her zeal to tell the woman about its originals. The key rings, Thubin said, were designed and created by Richmond County Schools students and printed with the district’s 3-D printer.

* * * 

Kevin Spradlin | PeeDeePost.com Sophia Bacon, 7, of Morven, races on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway simulator while her father looks on in approval - or slight apprehension.

Kevin Spradlin | PeeDeePost.com
Sophia Bacon, 7, of Morven, races on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway simulator while her father looks on in approval – or slight apprehension.

While an Indianapolis Speedway show car — with a $50,000 steering wheel, which serves as the car’s center of operations — from Bridgestone/Firestone was locked up in a dry trailer, a partnership with Maness Tire and Retreading still helped to steal the show inside the Cole Auditorium lobby.

It takes between $8 million and $12 million to get a car ready for a race, Bridgestone/Firestone representatives said, but it took only some ingenuity, an Xbox One and a custom video game to pull in digs of all ages to try their luck at a digital simulator.

Sophia Bacon, 7, of Morven, was in the driver’s seat as her father watched. Everyone seemed to agree it was a good thing young Sophia didn’t have her driver’s license yet — there was plenty of tire marks on the grassy areas — but she had fun just the same.

Kevin Spradlin | PeeDeePost.com Ashley-Michelle Thubin, public information officer for Richmond County Schools, talks about the Richmond Raider key rings designed and printed by students using a 3-D printer.

Kevin Spradlin | PeeDeePost.com
Ashley-Michelle Thubin, public information officer for Richmond County Schools, talks about the Richmond Raider key rings designed and printed by students using a 3-D printer.

 

Filed in: Business, Education, Featured News, Hamlet, Latest Headlines, Military and Veterans, News

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