CHANDLER – Coast Guard veteran James Falsken said it was a challenge to adjust to everyday life after he came back from the Vietnam War.
The American Service Animal Society recognizes the obstacles veterans like Falsken may face after their time in the service, and it wants to bring awareness about the benefits of owning a service animal, the organization said.
The society will host Woofstock, an annual event co-hosted with Maricopa County Animal Care and Control, this weekend in Chandler.
The event features dog training demonstrations, animal adoption booths and the Walk of Honor, a course intended to honor those who serve.
The non-profit organization helps teach pairs like Falsken and his dog, Kaelee, the numerous ways dogs can aid disabled veterans.
Dogs of all sizes that take part in the training can learn skills like opening and closing doors, calling 911 or picking up their owner if they fall.
It took about 9 months for Kaelee to become a certified service animal, Falsken said.
“It’s like having a nurse on duty … 24 hours a day,” Falsken said.
Army veteran Barbara Jeter has diabetes and said her dog, Nutmeg, helps her detect when her blood sugar is low.
“I’ve learned that she’s smarter than I am,” Jeter said. , “She knows me better than I know myself.”
Debbie Claseman, who co-founded the service society, said it’s important for people like Jeter and Falsken to feel comfortable with their animals and encourages other disabled veterans to keep an open mind.
“You build a bond with your dog and walk out the door a whole lot stronger than you did when you walked in,” Falsken said.
Claseman said Woofstock is just one of many events in the Valley where veterans have the opportunity to learn more about the training sessions offered by the group.
The event runs from 9 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Saturday at Tumbleweed Park, 745 E. Germann Road.
Admission is free. The service group will accept donations to help fund training for veterans and their dogs.