King and Queen Diamond K9, located in Warren, Ohio, is a small operation but it’s having a big impact on the lives of military veterans with disabilities. “We train service dogs for people with disabilities, whether it be medical, physical, or mental,” co-founder Taylor Carnell explained in a recent interview with WKBN News in Youngstown.
He and two other veterans—his wife Sarah and their kennel master James Grissom—make sure that getting a dog is not a hassle. There’s “no criteria other than service” to reach out to them. They launched the kennel because they understand the difficulty veterans can have returning to civilian life after service, and they know firsthand how a service dog can help with that transition. Grissom notes that he has experienced that struggle and “it’s very hard,” but with his service dog, his life has “completely turned around.” Both he and Taylor believe that pairing veterans in need with service dogs can improve not only quality of life but also longevity if that companionship keeps a person from committing suicide, a tragic event that has been happening at horribly frequent rates within the veteran population.
In addition to being placed in homes, these service dogs have roles in clinical settings, too. King and Queen Diamond K9 dogs are now visiting group therapy sessions at an addiction treatment center, Valor Recovery Centers. The dogs can make it easier for an individual to share difficult personal information with the group: the dog picks up on the emotions of a person who is struggling to open up, goes over to that person and sits next to them, perhaps leaning against their legs, providing calming physical and mental comfort simply with their presence. The result is a more meaningful group session therapy.
The benefits of dogs’ interactions with humans in clinical settings has been studied extensively. As Dr. Azadeh Aalai noted in an article in Psychology Today, “dog ownership has also been implicated in helping… veterans suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. In fact, many innovative therapies today targeting our returning veterans specifically integrate canine therapy, with some resources referring to the presence of dogs as “life-savers” for these veterans.”
The ripple effect of the work Taylor and Sarah Carnell and James Grissom are doing is impossible to calculate. What’s certain is that, one dog at a time, they are brightening the lives of our veterans.