Service dogs are a hit with disabled veterans on golf course

On this Veterans Day, a North Myrtle Beach dog trainer has a reminder of how service dogs can help disabled vets live full and active lives. That includes playing golf.

Rick Kaplan is the founder of Canine Angels and trains therapy dogs to help veterans who have post traumatic stress disorder live better lives.

As an example of what the dogs can do on the golf course, Kaplan shows how Leroy, one of his trained dogs, can swiftly retrieve a golf tee and hand it to the golfer.

"He knows to take it out of the ground, bring it up and hand it to me," Kaplan said.

A blonde labrador named King is a pro at retrieving a golf club, making sure the club is balanced so it doesn't drag on the ground.

"Only on the 'give' command does he release it, because if he drops it on the ground, it does me no good."

Kaplan explains that a dog can be trained to do those tasks a disabled veteran may not be able to do for himself.

"Dogs are very helpful, especially if there's a balance issue, a missing limb issue, a dizziness issue."

The dogs are also taught to walk around the greens, but not on them, and to be respectful to other golfers.

"So therefore, there's no barking, no noise, no crying, no carrying on," Kaplan said.

The dogs may not be able to groom a bunker, but they can retrieve the rake and hand it to the golfer.

Kaplan trains dogs of all sizes, shapes and colors, including Zoe, a Yorkie who can detect anxiety in a PTSD vet.

In fact, dogs like Zoe can be taught how to gently awaken a veteran out of a bad nightmare.

It's an example, Kaplan says, of the cross species relationship that can develop between man and canine.

"That's the value of a pet. It's not human and you're across natural lines to communicate and be sensitive to each other and get this input that's so special."

Kaplan says a dog can reach a veteran in a way that no medicine or psychiatrist can.

He's paired 40 dogs with disabled vets over the past couple of years and says about 15 of those veterans are able to play golf with the help of their canine friends.