CAROLINE COUNTY, Va. -- A tranquil 20 acres along Sparta Road in Bowling Green provides a fresh start for all who visit.
“Oh, this property is majestic,” said owner Jason Haag. “It's incredibly quiet and it's in the middle of nowhere, which is fantastic.”
Leashes of Valor is a two-year-old non-profit providing service dogs for veterans with wounds on the inside and out.
“I would definitely consider them miracle workers,” Haag said.
Leashes of Valor co-founder and Navy veteran Matt Masingill recently trained Monsoon, a yellow lab who will be paired with an Army veteran wounded in Iraq.
Masingill said a service dog helps veterans with anxiety in social settings. The service dogs are security blanket on four paws.
“This is exactly what (the veterans are) here for,” Masingill said. “Its not a cure. It’s a tool. A tool to get a sense of normalcy in their lives.”
At Leashes of Valor, veterans live on site with their dog for 16 days of training.
Navy veteran and co-founder Danique Masingill said service dogs restore dignity.
“PTSD is not something people should be ashamed of,” Danique Masingill said. “I love seeing that and I love growing my military family that way, so it's just a different way to serve in uniform again, so for me its holistic, too.”
Each dog at Leashes of is either rescued from a shelter or donated.
Keith and Mary Lou Bowers fostered Monsoon for months during his training.
“I knew it was going to be hard, but making sacrifices like this wasn’t supposed to be easy,” Mary Lou Bowers said. “It something that comes from the heart.”
“You can’t put a monetary value on it,” Keith Bowers said. “Makes you feel good.”
Haag knows a service dog can be a lifesaver.
"Yes, this is definitely part of the healing process for me,” Haag said. “That bond is unbreakable in my opinion."
The Marine Corps officer’s loyal Sheppard, Axel, pulled Haag out of despair after he was wounded in Iraq in 2003.
“These dogs are lifesavers," Haag said. "They can help with anxiety, flashbacks, nightmares [and] medicine."
Haag said he is grateful for his second chance.
“I was given an opportunity to stay here -- and to do something when I got back,” Haag explained.
Now Haag is providing a safety net for fellow warriors.
“I feel like I have an obligation to pay it forward,” Haag said. “With the Marines we never leave anyone behind.”
Monsoon will graduate on Feb. 15 before he moves in with Rob permanently.
It takes approximately $25,000 to train each service dog. Click here if you would like to learn more or make a donation to Leashes of Valor. The organization also has an Amazon wish list.
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