Nursing Students Serving Vets
Nichole Faught and Ares
Apr 21, 2017 12:00 AM
One-year-old Ares may have been the best new student at the College of Nursing this year.
The mellow black lab learned how to sit through hours of lectures, pick up dropped items and push levers to open the handicapped doors. His human, undergraduate Nichole Faught, started training the pup in September.
“I don’t even know he’s in class,” says Associate Professor Lynn Hollister.
Several College of Nursing students have signed up with Labs for Liberty, a nonprofit organization that trains service dogs for American military veterans to help with post-traumatic stress disorder and the physical disabilities that have resulted from their combat service.
The Labrador retrievers are taught basic obedience, commands and initial service tasks. The dogs also are prepared to be hunting companions for their veterans. At the end of their training, they must be able to pass the American Kennel Club’s Good Citizen Test Qualifications and Public Access test. Labs for Liberty provides on-site training for the vets and the dogs and lifelong support.
“You have literally brought back a smile I haven’t had in years,” one Air Force veteran wrote in a message to the service dog organization. “I love [my dog] more than I can explain.”
A few weeks ago, Ares met his new human companion for the first time. Faught said seeing their immediate bond made turning over the gentle dog she'd been training for months easier. She has a new puppy to train this spring, three-month-old Max. Faught is working to harness his energy and channel it into a working dog perspective (and remind her fellow students not to pet the darling yellow lab).
Sometime later this year, she'll turn him over to a new companion. Faught says she reminds herself over and over again the purpose of her service. “I knew from the beginning that he wasn’t going to stay,” she says. “Someone who really needs him is going to be so happy to have him. I’ve been keeping that in my mind the whole time.”