Dogs prove valued company to disabled vets on the road to recovery

MAHWAH — Man’s best friend can truly be a soldier’s best buddy on his path to coping with painful experiences endured in the service.

That was the theme as Afghanistan war veteran and active serviceman Brian Williams was honored by top police figures, K9 teams and veterans representatives during an observance of the second annual K9 Veteran’s Day.

Williams, an Army tech sergeant who lost his left leg in the war and earned a bronze star for bravery and a purple heart, has a K9 therapy dog named Carly that he had first handled in Afghanistan as a military dog. He was presented the Bergen County military service medal at Thursday evening’s event at the Bergen County Law & Public Safety Institute on Campgaw Road.

Williams gave thanks and mention to the military for allowing him to adopt Carly while he is still in service.

“They believed Carly was doing more helping me, than with anybody else,” said Williams, who is now stationed at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst and is being treated at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Md. “I was thankful to be there. I was thankful to see a lot of people who cared about me. I could be stuck in a rut, but it’s not going to bring my leg back. I’ve got to push forward and continue.”

Williams was assisted by Carly while in Afghanistan. Like many military working dogs, Carly has been trained to handle a wounded soldier as effectively as an active one.

Founder of Faithful Friends Canine Academy, Dr. Alice Quinn can relate to the training given to canines like Carly, being a certified professional dog trainer herself, also at the K9 Veteran’s Day event. Quinn graduated with a degree in psychology, practicing dog therapy, which soon elevated to dog training. However it wasn’t until after 9/11 that Quinn decided to dedicate her career to training soon-to-be service dogs to assist wounded veterans.

Currently she is training 8-month-old Patrick, a Rottweiler from Upper Saddle River. Patrick’s owner is a wounded war veteran suffering from post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and currently receiving treatment for his injuries.

Although separated for now, Quinn is preparing Patrick to be reunited with his soldier, newly trained for mobility assistance and emotional support, just a few of the many qualities required of a service dog.

Quinn assisted with the Ground Zero recovery effort after 9/11. Patrick’s owner also was there, and Quinn spoke of how it was fate that she’d be brought in to train Patrick for a soldier that related to the same Ground Zero experience that got her involved with war dogs in the first place.

Among the many officers, soldiers and volunteers in attendance, Joel Trella, former Bergen County police chief and founder of the County’s Police K9 Unit, took to the stage to define what the ceremony meant to represent. Alluding to the many ways that service dogs help people, Trella declared that when he dies, he wants to come back as a sheep dog, protecting the flock.  “And I know it’s going to happen,” he said, “because when you spell dog backwards, you know whose listening.”

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