Derek Briggs and "Kelsey"

Derek Briggs and companion “Kelsey,” a Patriot Assistance Dog.

Derek Briggs knows what life is like with and without his service dog, "Kelsey."

The black-and-white border collie watches Briggs as he talks with people, sometimes laying next to him.

Kelsey is so important to his life that he wants to share the experience of having a service dog with other veterans through Patriot Assistance Dogs: Rescued Dogs Rescuing Veterans.

Briggs served from 1989-93 in the United States Navy, later serving with the U.S. Navy Reserves and the U.S. Army.

The International Falls veteran knows firsthand the effects a service dog can have for vets. He was placed with Kelsey when she was just eight months old in 2013.

"When she's by my side, it just eases everything," he said prior to the 2018 event. "She makes it easier to come out in public."

Saturday marks the second charity golf and awareness event, this year aimed at raising $10,000 to cover the cost of training and care of just one dog, and later training teamed with a veteran companion.

"With this event we promote hunting, fishing, camping, hiking and spending time on the lake with our children, as those of us with mental illnesses forget about how these events can help us in recuperation," Briggs said. All proceeds from this event go to Patriot Assistance Dogs to provide a service dog free of charge to a veteran with a medical diagnosis of PTSD or some form of mental illness, Briggs noted.

"Not every battle wound is visible, we all have our own stories and each one is different," he told The Journal earlier. "(People) don't understand that these dogs are saving our lives - there is help out there."

The event features an 18-hole, four-person team scramble, with some hole contests and prizes.

"This year's event is going to be bigger and better than last year's event, as word has spread about it throughout the state of Minnesota and surrounding states and expanding to an 18-hole golf tournament," he said, noting last year's 9-hole scramble.

And while the event is intended to raise money to provide another vet with a service dog, it's also to inform and educate the public about the highly trained, certified psychiatric service dogs that assist qualified U.S. military veterans.

At 6 p.m. Saturday, a service dog awareness program will feature several vets and their service dogs.

Meanwhile, Patriot Assistance Dogs fill a specific demonstrated need created by the veterans' disabilities. The goal of Patriot Assistance Dogs is to place these much needed assets with the veteran and at no charge to the veteran. The dogs used in this program may be donated, rescued or bred for the program.

The Patriot Assistance Dog website said each dog will be trained to meet individual veteran’s needs by:

  • Reminding veteran to take medication
  • Interrupting harmful behavior
  • Leading away from stressful situations
  • Getting help when necessary
  • Waking from night terrors
  • Interrupting panic attacks
  • "Clearing" a room or apartment
  • Maintaining a veteran's personal space

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