Leisa Tilley-Grajek, founder and president of K-9 Guardians was our presenter tonight. Leisa is a San Diego native who developed her love for dogs and all animals at a very early age.  Her family has a very long line of military service including her father who served in Vietnam.  It was her love of the military’s service men and women along with her love of dogs that prompted her to start K-9 Guardians. K-9 Guardians is a non-profit 501c (3) located in Fallbrook.  The organization raises and trains German Shepherds to be service dogs for veterans with PTSD and Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI).
The organization was founded in January of 2015 and is completely volunteer based.  Leisa started her presentation by letting us know an alarming statistic.  EVERY DAY 22 VETERANS COMMIT SUICIDE.  This incredibly sad statistic is behind their motto of “22 a day”.  That means 1 suicide every 65 minutes and further statistics show that 30% of all veterans have had suicidal thoughts.
In light of these staggering numbers, Leisa is committed to providing veterans with PTSD and TBI with service dogs at no cost to them.  She stated “They have already paid the price.”  We were all astounded to learn that, at some organizations, it can cost up to $48,000 to get a service dog and $8,000 just to get the training for a dog.  This organization wants to see every veteran with PTSD and TBI have a dog without paying a dime.  To support this incredibly important effort they have several ways that people can support them.  It costs about $15,000 - $20,000 to raise a K-9 Guardian.  They just received a wonderful $20,000 grant from Harrah’s but their goal is to raise 22 guardians over the next year.  They have had two adorable litters (you should have seen the pictures!) since May of this year and are hopeful that, with the funding, they can reach their goal.  However, realistically, without the funding they are looking at 6-7 being trained.  All of their trainers are ADA/ADI certified, which is the best, and they bring the veterans in on the training process to help build the bond and train the dog to their specific needs. They even trained one dog to take off the socks of a veteran who couldn’t do it himself!  They treat train, use clickers and praise.  They never use corporal punishment and all of the dogs have to pass a public access test before going home with the veterans.  The great news is no veteran they have placed with a dog has continued to have suicidal thoughts or taken their own lives.  So…. how can we help?
The organization is always in need of volunteers and they are in desperate need of puppy raisers and dog sponsors.  Camp Pendleton has recently signed up to provide volunteers every Saturday at the ranch and volunteers are always welcome.  Another easy way to support the organization (I recently did this) is for those of you who shop on Amazon.  Go to the Amazon smiles page at http://smile.amazon.com/ and chose K-9 Guardians.  10% of all of your purchases will be donated to the organization.  This cause is truly amazing and so needed.  They pay for veterans from all over the country to come out and stay and work with their dog during training.
If you would like more information about how to help out, please visit http://www.k9guardians.org.