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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB)---A Louisville man has returned home after three weeks in Florida, taking part in a program that helps veterans nationwide who are suffering from PTSD.
It's called K9's for Warriors, and it has forever changed the life of retired U.S. Army Sergeant Clay Stretch.
K9's for Warriors is an organization which takes in rescue dogs, many of which are scheduled to be euthanized.
They are trained to be service dogs, helping veterans across the country suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.
1-year-old Ryder is a Golden Retriever, who was recently paired with Clay Stretch.
"A WWII veteran had her, and he surrendered her," says Lisa Stretch.
Stretch is from Louisville, and serviced in Bosnia in 2002, and Afghanistan in 2005.
"You can't go through deployments like this without carrying a lot of it back home with you," says Clay Stretch.
After returning home from Afghanistan, Stretch experienced nightmares, couldn't be around crowds, and was seeing things that weren't there at times. Loud noises are difficult to handle.
Stretch still struggles with PTSD.
That's where Ryder is now helping.
The K9's for Warriors program assigned Ryder to him.
He and numerous other veterans traveled to Florida, where they were taught how to take their assigned dogs into public buildings, restaurants, and most importantly, around crowds.
"It's giving him a purpose to care for her and he is able to move out and move away a little more each day it seems like with her," says Lisa Stretch.
In the week Clay Stretch has been home, he's already noticed progress.
Although he knows this is an uphill battle, with Ryder by his side, this is the new beginning he needed.
"Yesterday for the first time in 4 years, I actually walked 4 blocks down to McDonalds in broad daylight with the dog. I would have not done that 5 weeks ago," says Clay Stretch.
As for the K9's for Warrior's program, it is free, but there is a waiting list.
Stretch waited 8 months to be accepted, but he says it was worth it.
He's hoping others battling PTSD, will reach out for help.
For more information on K9's for Warriors, click here.
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