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Ozarks Life: K9s for Camo serving those who have served

John Lopez leads an effort to help veterans live a happy Ozarks Life.
Published: Nov. 12, 2021 at 5:47 AM CST
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ROGERSVILLE, Mo. (KY3) - At the Howliday Inn Pet Resort in Rogersville, you’ll learn that for some in the military service is a lifetime commitment.

“In my opinion,” Howliday Inn owner John Lopez said, “besides God, a dog is the next best thing.”

This comes from a man who spent most of his life scared of dogs. But John and his love for ‘man’s best friend’ was born after serving 11-months in Afghanistan.

I had PTSD when I got back,” John said. “When I started working with dogs and training with dogs; it’s very impactful just being around them.”

John created K9s for Camo. The organization trains dogs to serve our servicemen and servicewomen. And the veterans aren’t the only ones benefiting from this organization.

First, there are the dogs whose lives are saved by the non-profit.

“We have to adopt from a shelter,” John said. “Very calm energy, under two years of age.”

John then takes the dogs to the Ozarks Correctional Center in Fordland. There, inmates are paired with the dogs to begin training them for their new life.

Not only the dogs’ but the person who is ready to leave prison behind them.

“It’s very hard to change when you get out because there are no jobs for you,” John said. “And so, dog training is very needed. And there’s not a lot of great dog trainers. And so a lot of these guys come out and already know things, especially the service dog training that most of America doesn’t know.”

Then once the dog is trained it is matched with a veteran.

“They go to their veteran at no cost,” John said. “And then that includes future training as well as food, bedding, kennels, anything they need for the relationship to work.

Chase, a Lab and American Bulldog mix, was paired with Mark Gilson.

Gilson served in the military from 1976 to ‘96. For 20-years, someone was always watching his ‘six.’ But here at home, that comfort was gone; especially out with large numbers of people.

“I just stayed at home,” Gilson said. “I went to work and came home, went to church and came home. And then I met Chase. And the day after I got Chase, my youngest daughter took me to the mall. And we were there for about four-and-a-half hours and Chase was doing what he was trained to do. And so slowly, he’s pulling me out of my shell.”

“We get phone calls weekly, not only from the veterans but the veteran spouses,” John said about the K9s for Camo success stories. You’ll see where (some veterans) went from 12 or 14 pills a day to one or zero.”

Saving dogs from being put down, inmates from living in a dangerous cycle, and veterans from isolation, depression, and possible suicide. And all of this is local.

Local adoptions, local inmates, local veterans.

“We can provide whatever the veteran needs,” John said. “I’ve done Diabetic Alert, seizure detection, blocking, mobility, we’ve done narcolepsy and a lot of PTSD.”

“He created this company so that other people wouldn’t have to suffer,” Gilson said. “And I don’t want to be a statistic.”

John says it takes between $5,000 and $7,000 to train one dog at K9s for Camo. He’s already been able to place 105 service dogs with military veterans. John’s goal is 22-dogs a year.

Click here for more information on K9s for Camo.

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