Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Weavers Donate $1 Million to K9s for Warriors; Money Will Be Used for a Bigger Facility So Nonprofit Program Can Pair More Veterans with Service Dogs

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Weavers Donate $1 Million to K9s for Warriors; Money Will Be Used for a Bigger Facility So Nonprofit Program Can Pair More Veterans with Service Dogs

Article excerpt

Byline: Clifford Davis

The mountainous Navy veteran of Iraq and Afghanistan stood holding the leash of his "snoodle," a giant schnauzer-poodle mix named General Patton.

But Sean Neely's smile showed how much the dog meant to him.

"I know you're fixing to ask me how a Navy guy has a dog named General Patton," he said with a laugh. "But he helps me out a lot. If I'm in the store and there's a lot of people around, he keeps my anxiety and anger down.

Neely was just one of the success stories of K9s for Warriors on hand Friday as Wayne and Delores Weaver gave the nonprofit group $1 million.

The nonprofit trains service dogs, most of which were abandoned by their owners, and gives them to disabled veterans. The dogs and owners then are put through a three-week training course together at the organization's home in Ponte Vedra Beach - all free.

"This was like home to me," Neely said. "I can't tell you how much it meant to be here and to be cared for the whole time by these people.

"It was just the little things like they found out I like to have Cocoa Pebbles in the morning and every morning they made sure I had Cocoa Pebbles."

One hundred fifteen pairs of dogs and disabled veterans have graduated from K9s for Warriors. The group has come a long way since the nonprofit's president Shari Duval noticed her own son spiraling downward after he returned from Iraq.

Her son, Brett Simon, spent two tours in Iraq as a civilian contractor handling TED (tactical explosive detection) dogs. He spent much of his time clearing houses and paths for Army soldiers.

"I really didn't know what was wrong with him," Duval said. "He wouldn't leave the house, he was depressed and losing weight.

"I thought I was going to lose him."

Duval began doing her own research and learned how service dogs helped wounded veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan. …

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