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Local veteran is helping others connect better to their four-legged friends

Posted at 1:16 PM, Nov 11, 2018
and last updated 2018-11-11 13:16:47-05

He believes every veteran deserves to have the best quality of life they can.

“These dogs can connect and communicate with veterans in a way that humans can’t," that's one of the reasons why William Edwards Sutton Jr., created The Northeast Ohio K-9 Solutions organization.

“If you have a dog that's not professionally trained, or it's not at that level that it should be at, it could be more stressful, and do more harm than good,” he said. “So it's become my mission to help as many veterans as I can."

To help veterans manage their Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder or PTSD, putting an emphasis on the emotional connection between the vet and their pet.

“It’s not just about getting them a dog, it’s about getting them a dog and keeping that dog trained for them,” Sutton Jr. said.

He can relate to what his fellow comrades may go through, having a service dog himself.

“You know they just love to love, it’s unconditional love,” he said referring to his dog. “He’s kind of just become my shadow and I feel off balance if I don’t have him.”

Sutton Jr. is a veteran who spent five years in the U.S. Army and a did tour in Afghanistan.

“If I’m feeling stressed or intrusive memories, anxiety, flashbacks, I’ll use my dog to help ground me,” he said.

The training takes about a year for both the vet and dog. His first two dogs have been donated, and one has already been working to a local veteran, who will soon take her hound home.

“Just seeing what can be accomplished with dogs is very rewarding," he said.

Sutton Jr. is just one example of a special program through Cleveland V.A., which connects veterans with companies to other veterans, in hopes to help them fulfill their purpose and goals.

“It's really about trying to tap into each individuals, each veterans individual interest and passions and trying to match that with an employer in the community," said Ryan Might, Vocational Specialist at VA Medical Center here in Cleveland.

And they’ve done that for Sutton Jr.

At his training facility in Ashtabula, he holds group walks every Saturday morning for vets and their dogs to bond, while also participating in a stress-free activity.