Faithful Friend



Les Castro and his Dog Pepper will be at FBC Alba on Sunday am October 22.  Be sure to join as Les and Pepper bring to us a new perspective in communication and evangelism.

Faithful Friend Ministry

Since 1999 Faithful Friend has taken trained service dogs to visit incarcerated juveniles or at-risk youth facilities. These service animals have been used to improve the lives of troubled teens and to promote discernible change in their behavior. The Faithful Friend program has publicly documented proven results in reducing inmate violence. The program stimulates the desire for better behavior and encourages better study habits with corresponding improvement in educational test scores. The cumulative result of Faithful Friend intervention is reduced recidivism. Faithful Friend has implemented mentoring programs for youth during their incarceration, their time of partial furlough, and their post-adjudication release. Faithful Friend volunteers are interdenominational, and the principles taught are Biblically based.

The new K9 Program will place canines with incarcerated youth for the purpose of teaching life skills while also teaching program participants how to socialize and train canines that will be given to combat veterans as service dogs. This program expects to accomplish multiple objectives including the placement of shelter dogs, an increased public awareness of shelter adoption programs, greater public awareness and support of youth programs, reduced recidivism for youth offenders, providing service dogs to wounded veterans, and specifically easing Post Traumatic Stress Disorder symptoms among veterans suffering from that condition.   Service dogs may also be trained to alert veterans to pending seizures, diabetic imbalance, and assistance to sight and hearing impairments.

To initiate the K9 Program, Faithful Friend has gathered the support of County officials, a local veterinarian, world class dog trainers, and the local Veterans Administration, area humane shelters, and community and corporate sponsors. The youth will learn to document the project, learn canine training methods, and work with a dog in preparation for certification as a service animal. Faithful Friend will oversee the training, be on call 24/7 for assistance, schedule regular training sessions with the youth and their K9 charge, and locate and work with a handicapped veteran who will ultimately receive the trained canine.

Past successful collaborations exist between Faithful Friend and supporting agencies and groups, and the local press will build up this next endeavor (see TV related news stories; Veteran Service Dogs€, €œAt Risk Youth Boot Camp Visit, €œFaithful Friend In The News€, Shiloh’€™s Tale).  The impact of the K9 Program goes well beyond the lives of the dogs, student volunteers and wounded veterans.  It reaches deep into the fabric of the communities that these groups touch and the lives they influence.

During advanced stages of training, canines will require public venues for behavioral conditioning. Demonstrations on dog safety in schools and public gatherings will be targeted. SPCA public events such as dog walks, adoption days, and fund raising exposure will also be targeted. By giving a veteran a service animal to assist him or her in such public gatherings, we also help the veterans be more active in our society, give them opportunities to heighten public awareness about service dogs, and allow them to help raise canine issues such as animal shelter fundraising and pet adoption programs. The cycle then completed reinitiates itself with heightened public awareness, which encourages other dogs to be put into the program, with new youth who wish to participate, and for more veterans to see the benefits this can have for them in the community.

The largest key to success has been the broad community support which we have already received. Faithful Friend has long been recognized for its at-risk youth program and use of well-trained canines. The expansion into a County K9 Program for Faithful Friend is a reasonable next step. The financial support Faithful Friend is seeking is far less than what it has taken to initiate similar programs in other parts of the country.

Faithful Friend is working toward incorporating a broad community support for the K9 Program. We have area animal shelters and dog breeders who wish to provide canines for the Program. We seek local donor support, philanthropic foundation support, and national corporate sponsorship. We have received financial support from the Hoblitzelle Foundation, the Florence Foundation, the Rose Foundation, the Oonk Foundation, and Wal-Mart Community Grants. We have received national corporate sponsorship for pet products from 1-800-PetMeds. Additional funding is needed for our operating budget which is scalable. With an increase in our general budget we can produce more service dogs. We do not have any bricks and mortar overhead, but will realize other expenses.

Thousands veterans live in the County. Many of these are combat veterans who are suffering from some level of Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). The demand for service dogs by this group far outnumbers supply. Service dogs cost between $10,000 and $30,000 to produce depending upon the skills needed. Because the K9 Program receives financial support these service animals can be offered to veterans at little cost to themselves and be made available to worthy veterans who would otherwise not have access to such assistance. Because of its broad community support and the large resident veteran population, the County K9 Program will have a very high impact level for this growing community.