Unleashed Dog Training in Hubert has been training service dogs for wounded Veterans for years, and lead trainer Casper Vande Hei, a Veteran himself, says since 2009 they've trained what amounts to half a million dollars worth of service dogs to local Veterans Onslow County.
Kevin Martin, a wounded Veteran, is among those to benefit from the organization.
Martin says, "Everyone likes to call him a service dog. He's not a dog at all, he's a companion. He's the reason I get up and do what I do everyday."
His dog Axe helps him overcome his injuries...something as simple as picking up a quarter off the ground.
Casper Vande Hei trained Axe.
He says being a Veteran himself he can relate why wounded Veterans benefit from service dogs.
He says, "Knowing what I deal with on my own personal level, allows me to relate to the guys."
And he says the training of the dogs is extensive and varies upon the case. "Depends on what we have to train them for. All of our anxiety dogs take between six months to a year. You start looking at other disabilities, seizures, diabetes, and it starts taking longer. Then we look at the mobility aspect, double leg amputees. And then you start looking at a year, year and a half. Then you start looking at wheelchairs. And it takes us almost two years to be able to train a wheelchair dog."
Vande Hei says he can train any breed to be a service dog, and training can start as early as five months old. He also says that many of their service dogs come from generous donations from the community - but dog selection is always geared to the needs of the specific Veteran they are working with.