Paws Assisting Veterans, or PAVE, is a nonprofit organization dedicated to training service dogs for veterans with mental and/or physical disabilities and to advance public knowledge of service dogs and the essential roles they play. The organization is dedicated to improving the lives of veterans through partnering veterans with trained service dogs, empowering them and their families to achieve lifelong successes and to pave their way home.
Michelle Nelson founded PAVE after attending Bergin University of Canine Studies and working with veterans during their training camp to receive their service dogs. A lifelong dog person, Nelson saw the need for service animals to work with veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder and other needs. Veteran suicides are at an all-time high and the partnership a canine provides can bring veterans struggling with PTSD and other issues back into society and back to their families. PAVE assistance dogs have proven to be literal lifesavers for many veterans. She has run PAVE with a dedicated team of professionals and volunteers for six years, all while teaching full-time at Linfield College.
Service dogs are provided free of charge to matched veterans. PAVE is continually growing and focused mostly on Northwest placement, due to access to continued training with the veterans; placements have been made with veterans in Oregon, Washington, California, Massachusetts, Tennessee, and Texas.
Dogs are matched based on the needs, personality, and temperament of the veteran and the dog. Service dogs are chosen that would best meet those needs and circumstances. Because service dogs are given free of charge, PAVE relies on the generous donations from their supporters and an ongoing search for grant opportunities.
There are a variety of service dog organizations but those serving clients with PTSD are limited, as well as stretched thin. Currently, the need exceeds the availability of trained service dogs, and it takes on average two years and costs approximately $25,000 per dog. PAVE has also worked with some rescue dogs to become service dogs. It takes a very specific temperament and aptitude for a service dog to be successful, particularly a service dog working with a veteran with PTSD.
Nelson is a certified professional dog trainer with 10 years experience working with assistance dogs. PAVE trains the assistance dogs as well as providing extensive training and follow-up for the veterans to work with the new canine partners. These are highly trained service dogs who help their partners live their lives to their fullest potential. You can find more information and ways to help with PAVE’s important mission at www.paveusa.org.
If you are interested in learning ways to support your veteran community, check out All for Good for opportunities to serve those who have served our nation.