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      Local man turns shelter dogs into service dogs

      About 7.5 percent of Americans will experience post traumatic stress disorder(PTSD) in their lifetimes. Thousands of those are veterans returning home from Iraq or Afghanistan.

      While certain groups like veterans and EMT's might be more vunerable to post traumatic stress disorder, it's a disorder that does not discriminate.

      National statistics show that veterans make up about 20 percent of the U.S. suicide deaths each year - that's an average of 18 veterans a day.

      The solution? According to Richard Kaplan and his one-year-old golden retriever, King, all you need to combat PTSD is four paws, a tail, and a whole lot of love.

      "{PTSD} is a horrible disease... people become irritable dark, withdrawn, lonely, depressed, nasty - they give up," Kaplan says.

      Kaplan, who had a career training service dogs, is now retired. Coming from a family of military men, he wanted to give back. He's started a nonprofit (501C3 status pending) called Canine Angels. The group provides training, vet care, and food to shelter dogs, then places them in homes of veterans, many with PTSD, after the training.

      "The beauty of the dog program is it brings them back to touch with emotion, with care," Kaplan says.

      King isn't your average pup. He has memorized 60 commands. He opens doors, can close drawers, open cabinets, help someone get dressed. He even can recycle and throw away trash.

      Kaplan says he's trained and placed a couple hundred dogs in the homes of veterans. To date, he's covered much of the training and pet care costs out of his own pocket. He wants to do more, but now he's reached a roadblock.

      "I need help. I need people who are willing to do something for a dog and something for a veteran. I need people to step forward and say I will foster a dog."

      If you're interested in fostering a dog through Canine Angels, Kaplan asks to contact him at 917.575.6235 or email