Local veteran starts service dog program in the Valley

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Castillo told CBS 4 News that he is currently working with the city of Brownsville and their Veterans Affairs office to spread the program. He said they are waiting to receive funding in the next couple of months. (CBS 4 News)

A Rio Grande Valley resident created a service dog program involving rescue dogs from local shelters in an effort to help veterans who suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder.

The program, known as TADSAW, or Train a Dog Save a Warrior, aims to teach rescue dogs basic skills to protect and keep veterans calm.

“I actually took it upon myself to start this program and help my fellow veterans and help them cope with the issues that they deal with on a daily basis,” said Robert Castillo, a veteran and certified service dog trainer in the Valley. “By providing them service dogs, they are able to better handle the issues that they encounter on a daily basis.”

Carlos Rodriguez, a Marine Corps veteran, said he began suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder shortly after returning home from deployment. He is currently working to train Ike, a beagle mix, to become his service dog with the help of Castillo.

“I have a lot of panic attacks, anxiety attacks, nightmares. He helps me and calms me down when I’m getting them,” Rodriguez said.

Castillo said he hopes the program will gain support and momentum to help improve the lives of local veterans.

“I’m hoping that this will spread across the Valley and hopefully I won’t be the only one doing this. I want to try to grow this program and try to help the veterans, not just in the Harlingen-Brownsville area, but in the mid and upper Valley,” Castillo said.

Castillo told CBS 4 News that he is currently working with the city of Brownsville and their Veterans Affairs office to spread the program. He said they are waiting to receive funding in the next couple of months.

“To all the veterans out there, if you suffer from PTSD, believe me, this is the way to go. A service dog will help you like you would never believe,” Rodriguez said.

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