SHOSHONE, Idaho — Hiatus Ranch primarily serves an equestrian program to help veterans regain their bearings and return to everyday life. Now, the ranch is expanding its services, offering a K-9 unit program.
Starting a K-9 program has always been on Hiatus Ranch founder Joshua Burnside's bucket list. Thanks to word of mouth, another man heard about Burnside's dream and helped make it a reality by donating three Belgian Malinois puppies.
Adam O'Livas' Belgian Malinois recently had a litter of 13 puppies, and after hearing of Burnside's work, he knew he had the perfect way to show his support.
“Every veteran is different, and for a good portion of them, animal therapy works," said O'Livas. "I’ve seen it do well for quite a few people, and I think what Josh is doing is very important and has an impact.”
The upcoming K-9 program helps ensure every veteran attending Hiatus Ranch can form a bond with at least one animal while on site.
“Everyone’s not going to connect with a horse or a donkey or everything else that we have here,” said Burnside.
The dogs will also help the veterans in attendance with whatever they may be struggling with.
“Emotional support, or for seizures, or night terrors, or for a veteran who needs assistance carrying groceries or turning a light off," said Burnside. "We have trainers that will be able to train the dog specifically for those.”
The Belgian Malinois is an ideal breed to work as service/support dogs because of how well they connect with people and their high level of intelligence.
“They have an incredible drive," said O'Livas. "Not only for play and for whatever job they’re trained for but also just to be with their owner and please.”
With a K-9 program now set in motion, Burnside is looking to the future to see what other ways he can help veterans.
“I always want to be open to growing, but not grow in means of we’re going to do two to three hundred veterans a year, but growing as in programs, as long as we have the financial means and the expertise to do it in.”
Hiatus Ranch is expecting its next group of veterans to attend sometime this spring.