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Rescued stray dog trains for life of service

For more than seven years, VA Dogs of Texas has provided trained service dogs to assist the lives of disabled veterans living across Texas.

KERRVILLE, Texas — A few weeks ago, Kerr County Animal Services picked up a stray. The two-year-old German Shepard waited patiently for her owner to pick her up from the shelter. When that didn't happen, Kerrville Pets Alive came to the rescue. 

Karen Guerrero is the president of Kerrville Pets Alive She said this dog is special.

“I thought she was just amazing all the way around," Guerrero said. "Good-natured, great, great gal."

The stray was lovingly renamed, Annie Oakley. After all, this is her shot at a second chance.

"Mindful, smart, easily trainable," Guerrero said. "So we knew she'd be a perfect fit.” 

Guerrero reached out to her colleague, Verla Bruner. While Bruner volunteers with Kerrville Pets Alive, she's also the development director for Veterans Assistance Dogs of Texas.

For more than seven years, VA Dogs of Texas has provided trained service dogs to assist the lives of disabled veterans living across Texas. These veterans are suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress (PTS), Military Sexual Trauma (MST) and physical disabilities.

“I was sent a Facebook picture of Annie from Karen, and she said, 'please see if you can you can save her,'” Bruner said.

Bruner got to work. She reached out to their director of training who met Annie Oakley. She was trainer-approved for a life of service. Bruner said she's now in her beginning stages of 'boot camp'.

“She'll be trained for between four to six months. We train her in the basic training of service, whether it be picking up objects, they can be trained to smell for seizures, for diabetic comas. They can be trained for all different types of things," Bruner said. "At the same time, we are working to find the perfect veteran for her.” 

Bruner said the majority of their veterans struggle with PTSD.

“That’s probably eighty-five percent of our clientele," Bruner said. "And then the other ones are people with physical disabilities.” 

When Annie is ready, she'll stand by her veteran's side and lead the way to another happy ending. 

“We love to see their stories full circle like this," Guerrero said. "We hope to see any progress in the program and hope to see her with her veteran.” 

Bruner said VA Dogs of Texas invests about $25,000 in each dog they train. The dogs are provided to the veteran at no cost to them.

There's a high demand for service dogs. Bruner said they receive four to five applications a week from veterans in need.

Both Kerrville Pets Alive and VA Dogs of Texas rely on donations to save lives. To help Kerrville Pets Alive, click here. To help VA Dogs of Texas, click here.