When veteran Charlotte Dean was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder, she was prescribed medication after medication to stabilize her mood or help her leave the house independently.
In the end, it wasn’t a prescription but a small black rescue dog named Jack that helped her the most.
Jack is the “Jack” in JAVELAN (Jack Assisting Veterans Enjoy Life AgaiN), a nonprofit organization dedicated to providing service dogs to enrich the lives of military veterans, according to its website. Charlotte and her husband, Bob Dean, are part of the group that founded JAVELAN in March 2017.
Since its start, JAVELAN has paired up more than 30 veterans with a dog. Each week, about one pair graduates from training.
Most organizations, Bob Dean said, insist on training a purebred dog for about three years and having it certified before introducing it to its owner. The lengthy process can sometimes cost more than $25,000.
JAVELAN either adopts shelter dogs — mostly mutts — or trains a dog already in the home. From day one, the dog lives with its owner who, with the help of a professional trainer, trains the dog himself or herself.
“We teach the veteran how to train the dog,” Bob Dean said. “The veteran has to correct and modify behaviors. In the military, if you teach a guy to fix something, he can fix it for the rest of his life.”
The training process was designed by Russ Dillon of Dillon’s Dog Training in Omaha. When Charlotte Dean decided she wanted a service dog, the Deans turned to Dillon.
“Within three months, we had a fully trained service dog,” Bob Dean said, “and he was doing it for free.”
The Deans and their partners decided to start JAVELAN to support local trainers in their efforts to assist veterans. In 19 months, JAVELAN has raised about $90,000, 100 percent of which went toward the purchase and training of dogs.
One of the first dogs rescued by JAVELAN was Kimber, who went to the home of veteran Sean Tomsu. Tomsu’s wife, Gigi Tomsu, said when her husband came home from the military, he was physically present but mentally in his own world.
“Sean can get very anxious and sometimes tense, so Kimber is there to take his mind off of everything going on around him,” Gigi Tomsu said. “Sometimes, she senses when he’s not feeling all right so you’ll see her nudge at him — nothing big, just subtle.”
Gigi Tomsu, who said she has disliked dogs since she was a child, has grown to love Kimber. She credits the dog for getting her husband back.
“This does impact lives,” she said. “And it’s done naturally. There’s no medicine curing him, it’s just a simple dog that was trained properly. I have to trust that process and trust the outcome, and that made me trust Kimber.”