Rescue dogs help local veterans with mental illness

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ROCKFORD, Ill (WIFR) -- Rescue dogs hope to enrich the lives of veterans suffering from PTSD, traumatic brain injury, and other forms of psychological trauma.

Circle of Change provides a new and non-intrusive environment that helps Veterans come out of their shells and engage with other Veterans, dog trainers, along with rescued dogs. The organization partners with local Stateline shelters to host classes where vets work and then train the rescued canines.

Many of the rescued dogs also suffer from PTSD, which means that the Veterans and the dogs work through their PTSD together. This program serves all Veterans, not just ones who suffer from a mental illness.

Stephen Haight, Executive Director of the Circle of Change Veterans Dog Program, says even though this program is different, it is also very rewarding.

"Often times when Veterans come to us, particularly when they have severe PTSD, they can't make eye contact and have difficulty communicating and exchanging with others," Haight said. "To see them come out of that shell, they relate to the dogs and have success working with the dogs and also having support from their fellow Veterans."

This Sunday, on Veteran's Day, the nonprofit is having its second annual "Warriors Best Friend" brewing event at Pig Minds Brewery in Machesney Park. One dollar from every pint of beer sold at this event will go directly towards Circle of Change.