Collinsville group covers costs for PTSD service dogs

Illinois group "Got Your Six" provides support dogs to veterans and first responders

Megan Lynch
March 22, 2019 - 8:45 am

MARYVILLE, Ill. (KMOX) - Research has shown that support dogs can speed up recovery from PTSD.  Yet the cost of purchasing a service animal can be out of reach for many veterans.  KMOX News discovered one local group that provides support dogs at no charge.

Nicole Lanahan sits on a chair and pretends to sob.  "Recon," a German Shepherd rescue demonstrates one of the techniques used to help alert and calm someone suffering from PTSD.  He climbs on her lap and nudges her face.

Lanahan is founder and executive director of Got Your Six Support Dogs - military jargon for "got your back." A professional dog trainer for nearly 20 years, she started getting calls from veterans desperate for help, but unable to afford a fully-trained animal. It was one phone call in particular that moved her. 

"And they just started crying on the phone and they told me, 'look I can't afford $20,000, I can't leave my house, I can't do anything, my life is this shadow of what it was' and they just started sobbing and they're like, 'I just don't understand why you can't help me!'" Lanahan says.

She launched Got Your Six the next day from her own savings.  The group is now funded through donations and grants.

"All of our dogs are in training for over 300 hours. 50 of those are public access," Lanahan says. "They have specialty training. They are trained to alert to anxiety, interrupt nightmares, retrieve items, remind the recipient when it's time to take medication."

We met at the group's training facility in Maryville, Illinois -- a room ringed with chairs, dogbeds, medical equipment, even a platform with rows of airline seats that were donated by Southwest Airlines. 

"The airline regulation is the dog has to fit underneath the seat in front them.  So we teach them to get that behind back in that bottom carry-on space," Lanahan says Southwest has even donated training flights. 

The dogs train for 18 months before they meet their veteran.  The veterans spend two weeks at the facility before they take them home. 

"I think what never fails to stun me or surprise me is how the dogs know, almost instantly, that this person is now their person," Lanahan says.

The main requirement for veterans or first responders who apply for a dog - they must be willing to continue therapy.  The goal is that the animal will ultimmately assist them in recovery nand someday retire to just be their pet.  

"We hope that this will be the last service dog you ever need," says Lanahan.

Got Your Six Support Dogs

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