Pay it Forward: 4 Paws 4 Patriots

James Mann is a veteran who started 4 Paws 4 Patriots in Utah when he couldn't find someone to help him get a service dog for his PTSD (Photo: KUTV)

(KUTV) 4 Paws 4 Patriots is giving veterans and first responders help to get to a normal way of life.

"Sometimes when people have traumatic experiences, it's hard for them to be able to go out and interact with the community," said James Mann, founder of Utah's chapter of 4 Paws 4 Patriots.

The group is connecting veterans, police officers, firefighters, 911 dispatchers, and corrections officers with service dogs, free of charge.

"As a veteran, I feel that this is something that we've already paid for," Mann said.

Mann served in the U.S. Army as an infantryman in Operation Joint Guardian and Operating Enduring Freedom. He was medically retired in 2013 and was in need of a service dog to help with his PTSD.

But he couldn't find the help he needed.

" [I] decided that if I was having problems with it, then there were other veterans who were having the same problems," Mann said.

4 Paws 4 Patriots not only helps supply service dogs to these heroes, but they offer free training classes for the dogs and their owners.

Reggie Mendoza is a veteran who was part of one of the first training classes.

He served in the U.S. Army for 12 years, and was deployed overseas several times.

"In Iraq, I didn't see much action," he said. "But the last tour in Afghanistan--that was a bad one."

Medoza had anger issues, anxiety, and panic attacks after returning home.

"I never left being over there," he said.

4 Paws 4 Patriots hooked Mendoza up with his dog, Dozer.

"He's a life-changer," said Mendoza.

Mendoza now volunteers as an instructor for the program.

"I think it worked great for me, so I'm like, 'You know what? I'm going to help other veterans,'" he said.

Mann hopes to help other veterans and first responders like himself and Mendoza.

"For me, it's a way to continue to serve not just my country, but my community as well," Mann said.

Mountain America Credit Union donated $500 to 4 Paws 4 Patriots to thank them and help them continue their work.

Training classes are held at Don's Pet Care and Training Center in Ogden at 2:30 on Fridays and in Salt Lake City on Tuesdays at Kudos 2 Canines.

4 Paws 4 Patriots is always looking for foster families to help take care of the dogs, as well as supplies for the animals.

If you're interested in this program or would like to help, you can visit the 4 Paws 4 Patriots Utah Facebook page.