K9s for Warriors: 'I feel like I can live again'

ALBANY, Ore. -- Joane Dandurand served as a combat medic in the United States Army for about a year at Fort Sam in Houston, Texas. She was discharged in January 2011.

When she came home, she said, "I found out civilian life is another ball game."

Dandurand was diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress and Multiple Sclerosis.

When Dandurand came home, she was homeless for some time, eventually turning to her parents for support. While living at home she raised Hunter, her King Spaniel. "If it wasn't for my dog Hunter, I don't know what I would've done, and noticing him, he puts me at ease."

Dandurand started attending classes at Linn-Benton Community College in Albany and would bring Hunter to class to keep her calm.

"He is smaller and people wouldn't notice him. He was getting stepped on," she said.

Dandurand realized she needed some bigger help.

So she went online and stumbled upon K9s For Warriors, a Florida-based non-profit organization that provides dogs rescued from shelters and trains them to be service dogs for troops or veterans suffering from PTS. K9s For Warriors has helped over 500,000 veterans. According to their website, service canines for PTS are like seeing eye dogs for the mind.

Dandurand applied and was accepted for a three-week training course. In Florida, she was teamed-up with "Lilly," who's now her Golden Retriever.

For the past few years, Dandurand says before she applied for a service dog she lived in a cave. Now with Hunter and Lilly, she's been given new opportunities.

"I was really ancy for the past couple Fourth of July's, I've been pretty much in a cave. I'll turn on the fan and crank up the TV. Or just shut down and go to bed early," Dandurand said.

Lilly, she said, has given her confidence. "I feel like I can live again. Not survive, but live - and that's important."

Dandurand watched fireworks for the first time in three years this past Fourth of July.

Dandurand will be starting classes at Oregon State University this fall. She said without Lilly, she wouldn't have been able to. Lilly has a walking harness for Dandurand, who occasionally needs help with her disabilities. Dandurand hopes to become a park ranger.

Dandurand says she's most excited about her second chances. "I'm really looking forward to doing some camping this year, something I couldn't have done before.

"K9s For Warriors has saved my life."