U.S. Army veteran Ramon Reyes and his chocolate labrador, Huey—who are clients of San Martin-based Operation Freedom Paws—were recently recognized in an effort to highlight the life-changing impact that service dogs can have on military veterans who suffer from post traumatic stress disorder.
Huey and Reyes, who live in Soledad, are the recipients of the 2024 Purina Dog Chow Visible Impact Award. Earlier this year, dog lovers nationwide voted on the award’s service dog finalists, and selected Huey and Reyes as this year’s recipient, says a press release from Purina.
As the winners of the Visible Impact Award, Reyes and Huey will receive $10,000. Their training organization, Operation Freedom Paws (OFP), will receive a donation of $25,000 from Purina Dog Chow, says the press release.
The company will also donate $75,000 to the Association of Service Dog Providers for Military Veterans.
Reyes was struggling to reintegrate back into civilian life after serving in Iraq. Suffering from the effects of PTSD, Reyes reached out to OFP, a nonprofit organization that partners service dogs with veterans and others who struggle with mental health challenges and disabilities. OFP trains the pairs together and offers continued services for clients.
After applying and being approved for the program, “Ramon met Huey and they bonded immediately,” says the press release. They then spent the next year in training so the chocolate lab could learn the veteran’s behaviors and where Ramon needed assistance.
“Huey has saved my life in so many ways over the past six years,” Reyes said. “Not only has he helped me manage my PTSD symptoms and helped me become the father and husband I once was; he can detect a dizzy spell is coming on by smelling changes in my body’s chemistry and then stands between my legs to help me balance.”
Purina Dog Chow announced the Visible Impact Award with actor Anthony Ramos.
“All of our service dog finalists have made a significant impact for their veterans, but Huey’s story rose to the top for the thousands who voted,” Ramos said in the press release. “The Visible Impact Award lets us hear firsthand the role PTSD service dogs play, and we know there are more veterans who could benefit from a service dog the way Ramon has. We hope to inspire change so any veteran in need can get the help they deserve.”