PORTSMOUTH, Va. (WAVY) — There’s a new army in town and its mission is to save veterans.
One in three returning troops is diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and an estimated 22 veterans a day take their own lives.
Mutts With A Mission is a nonprofit started by veteran Brooke Corson. The organization has been training psychiatric and mobility service dogs for vets the past eight years in Maine and Central Virginia.
Corson recently moved to Hampton Roads and set up a training facility on High Street in Portsmouth.
She has 17 dogs in the field right now. One is named Stella, who was paired with a Gulf War Vet named Robert. Before they teamed up, Corson said Robert couldn’t even manage a trip to the grocery store.
“If anybody got in line behind him when he went to pay, he would leave, wouldn’t talk to people, nothing.”
But with Stella by his side to calm his anxiety, Corson said, “This elderly woman walks up and touches him, which is a no-no, and started talking to him about her grandson who is a Marine, and he sat there and talked for about 10 minutes and had a conversation with him. His aunt next to me started crying.”
Sometimes Corson can train a pet to become a service dog. She’s trained mutts, a poodle and even a chihuahua. They can also pair a veteran with a dog at no charge. They run on donations and volunteers. No veteran pays more than a $50 application fee.
“I’ve done what I set out to do, but it’s never enough,” Corson said. “I want to keep going. I want to help as many of my fellow veterans and wounded warriors as I can.”