LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- It's said that dogs are man's best friend. But for wounded heroes, their service dogs become a lifeline to help them get reacclimated into society.

“This dog has done more for me than any counselor, any medicine,” said Thomas Rierdon, who was a medic in the Marine Corps and served in the first Gulf War.

His service dog, Duddy, changed his life after some hard times.

“I've seen some pretty nasty things," Rierdon said. "Lost four guys on a helicopter crash. So I have PTSD really bad."

Rierdon said it consumed his life for years.

“The ability for me to go out to my son's soccer games or my daughter's dance recitals, that's what he helps me do," Rierdon said. "Before, I stayed home. I didn't go any of these places. I didn't go to family functions."

Rierdon is just one of many wounded heroes who gained a new sense of freedom with a service dog. And it's thanks to the non-profit "Dogs Helping Heroes."

“It's amazing to watch these heroes just go from being really reclusive to coming out of their shell,” said David Benson, Executive Director of Dogs Helping Heroes.

The fundraiser for the organization at the Tim Faulkner Art Gallery was to raise money to train 20 more rescue dogs to become service dogs in 2018. Benson said these dogs give veterans, first responders and Gold Star families a second chance at truly living.

“Being in a public place like this tonight, these heroes would not be here without their service dogs," Benson said. "Period. End of story."

Rierdon still remembers the day he received Duddy.

“Absolutely," he said. "I cried like a baby."

Since then, the two have been a team, helping with everything from emotional to physical needs.

“He can help me up off the ground," Rierdon said. "He can help me up and down steps. He picks things up for me."

And their bond continues to grow stronger every year.

“Every day, he helps liberate a little bit more and a little bit more and a little bit more,” Rierdon said.

Since 2013, Dogs Helping Heroes has trained and placed 17 service dogs with a wounded hero. If you are a wounded hero and would like to apply for a service dog or to volunteer or make a donation click here.

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