Operation Battle Buddies matches service dogs with military veterans who have PTSD

A litter of 15 is ready to embark on their mission the first week of January 2020

A former military mom from Cibolo is on a mission to help military veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder heal with the help of a battle buddy.

CIBOLO, TX – A former military mom from Cibolo is on a mission to help military veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder heal with the help of a battle buddy.

In 2015, Kathy Golliher launched Operation Battle Buddies, a program to pair up a puppy Labrador retrievers with veterans who showed a need for a service dog.

Healing heroes: “Battle buddies” for PTSD

“I love my country because I’m a proud mom, and to thank these vets and their families for what they’ve done for us,” Golliher noted about why she took on this mission.

She breeds the Labrador retrievers herself, a decision she considered carefully.

“I can’t take that chance of not knowing -- when every moment of those first few weeks or months of a dog’s life -- that it hasn’t been loved,” Golliher said. “(Dogs) have triggers just like (veterans) have triggers. And I don’t want anybody in any family that we would place a dog with to find out the hard way, a trigger.”

The term battle buddy is used in the military to partner up soldiers to help one another in and out of combat.

At eight weeks old, the puppies embark on a mission with their veterans, and training begins that same week.

"There's a whole lot of excitement at the same time and a whole lot of anxiety, because they're the ones that are going to be training their dog," Golliher explained about the day the dogs go home with the veterans.

Six months ago, Rich Stinson was paired up with his battle buddy, Bailey.

“It has changed my life dramatically,” he said.

The 24-year retired Army lieutenant colonel was diagnosed with PTSD and clinical depression. His invisible war wounds, the transition to civilian life and personal life changes led him down a dark path. His therapist suggested OBB to him.

“I used to face every day -- because of the depression and everything else -- with a lot of dread,” Stinson said. “I really did not look forward to things, which is so strange to say because, you know, I have family and friends and everything else. But (Bailey) added a lot of light to some darkness.”

Stinson said he now looks forward to life and spending time with his battle buddy.

“It’s so hard to put into words without getting emotional, but she is a significant part of my life and a significant part of my recovery, which is going to be an ongoing process,” he said.

OBB pays for the training and the dogs. It takes about a year and a half for them to be certified.

The certification is based on the needs of the veterans.

Stinson said besides the companionship from his dog, he’s also getting camaraderie with the trainer and other veterans in the program.

Golliher is still working on the organization’s nonprofit status, but her job continues. Friends and people in the community support her through donations and fundraisers.

About the Authors:

Patty Santos joined the KSAT 12 News team in July 2017. She has a proven track record of reporting on hard-hitting news that affects the community.