Service Dog Application for First Responders

Service Dogs for First Responders

All of our dogs are pure-bred Labrador retrievers and all our dogs are bred by us. This is important not only because it allows us to breed only the healthiest, most responsive, and most confident dogs in the country, but it allows us to begin socializing our puppies literally from the moment they are born.

“Socialization” means how many different kinds of experiences a dog is exposed to. Our dogs receive a minimum of 10,000 hours of socialization before they are placed as service dogs. This means they have been exposed to children, the elderly, cities, suburbs, and the countryside. They have all gone to kids’ soccer games and football matches. They’ve gone to churches and synagogues and other houses of worship. They’ve gone to dentist and doctor appointments, to restaurants, to movies, on long car trips, and to the local mall. Our dogs have been exposed to so many different experiences and people that by the time we pair them with you, they have learned to take everything in stride – so you can as well. Our dogs will be the one looking out for your environment so you don’t have to.

And because all our dogs are raised in prison from the time they are eight weeks of age until they are paired with you, they have developed an empathy and responsiveness to people to a degree that, literally, we have never seen in any other dogs. Our dogs live in prison with their “puppy raisers,” who are generally people who feel vulnerable and who feel emotionally fragile. Our dogs learn to empathize with their puppy raisers, to comfort them when they are stressed, to curl up on their laps for the command “Tell me a Story,” to be by their sides 24/7. From this, our dogs learn to love, respect, and protect their humans.

So that’s about our dogs: what about us and the training you will receive from us? If you get a PBB Service Dog for Those Who’ve Served Us ® , you will also get PBB staff in your life. We have been working with veterans with PTSD since 2006. We understand what it is to isolate at home and only go to the grocery store with a family member or in the dead of night. We know what it’s like to go to a mall and scan. We know that you will want to sit with your back to a wall in a restaurant and be able to see an exit. We know you may have a panic attack in public; we know about triggers; we know about depression and fatigue. We will move into the hotel with you in upstate NY for the fourteen days of our “team training” so we are with you whenever you may need us. Our days are long, but they are also fun. We train together, we take our dogs to the woods to watch them play together, we go out to dinner together, we go on “field trips” together – and that’s just for the 14 days. Once you get home, we still have your back.

We are there 24/7 to answer any questions you may have. We are there to help you problem solve. If you need to go into in-patient treatment after you get one of our dogs, we will take the dog back and hold on to him if you cannot take the dog with you. If you are going on vacation and cannot take the dog (our dogs cannot go on cruises, for example), we will take the dog back while you are away. We will help you every step of the way because our goal, and our only real goal, is for you and your dog to succeed.

In the years of working with war veterans, we have seen the differences our dogs can make in someone’s life. Generally, our vets have hit rock bottom before they’ve come to us. They have generally tried self-medicating with alcohol and/or drugs; they have had families fall apart or threaten to; they have been prescribed more drugs to take on a daily basis than they are comfortable with; they have tried or thought about suicide. They are often at their wits end.

And then they get a Puppies Behind Bars service dog and for reasons that, to be honest, even we do not understand fully, their lives change. The dogs provide the confidence our vets need to re-engage with their families and the world. The dogs provide the unconditional trust and support that our vets need to go forward. And we are confident our dogs will provide this to you, our first responders, as well.

As a Manhattan-based non-profit, we were living and working in New York City on September 11th. We remember that day as though it were yesterday, and we remember the days and weeks and months and years since. We know how our city and our country changed as a result. We want to thank you for serving us. We want to thank you for keeping our city and country safe. We want to let you know that we feel we can do something to repay you for your service – and that something is to provide you with the best possible service dog there is, with the best possible training and follow-up commitment we can give.

If you have any questions as you fill out the attached application, let us know. Shoot us an email or give us a call. We are here to answer your questions and to help you in any ways we can.

For information on how to apply for a service dog, download the application or contact Puppies Behind Bars at 212.680.9562.