BILOXI, MS (WLOX) - From helping with the logistics of every day life, to providing the simplicity of companionship, service dogs make a difference in the lives of veterans.
However, veteran Lee Taylor says the industry is suffering a shortage.
"There is a tremendous need for certified service dog trainers," said Taylor.
After working on the issue for several months, a chance encounter with veteran L.M. Rice provided the next step in Taylor's plan. Rice and Taylor began a dialogue about the importance of service dogs to people in need.
"That's when it hit me that there's something I can do here," said Rice.
Though Taylor had already written a proposal to the Veterans Administration addressing the need for service dogs in the community, Rice says he had an idea that could take the proposal a step further.
"I said, well, what about disabled vets training dogs to give to disabled vets," said Rice.
Taylor, who immediately began to see the possibilities, brought dog trainer Deborah Goudeau on board. Thrilled with the concept, Goudeau says it's about more than giving disabled veterans something to do.
"This could be a new career path for them," said Goudeau.
According to Goudeau, disabled veterans are somewhat better suited to train dogs than she is.
"They have an upper hand on me, in that respect, where they know exactly what it feels like to be disabled in a way," said Goudeau. "It makes them perfect to know what to train that dog to do."
The newly formed team of Taylor, Rice and Goudeau has officially submitted a proposal to be considered in a new initiative by the VA called the Innovations Program, possibly giving the trio the support they need to move forward.
Now, holding out hope, the group says the proposal is their way of giving back.
According to the VA, the service dog team's proposal has already made it through two stages of the Innovations Program. The team should know about the next step within 90 days.