Trained service dogs can do wonders for the mental health of military veterans. Kaya, a German Shepherd service dog, is a shining example of that.
Kaya was the service dog of Cole Lyle, a Marine Corps veteran who served in Afghanistan. He was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in 2011, and Kaya played a critical role in helping him combat it.
She came to Lyle in 2014, a time when he was struggling with his mental health more than ever. According to Lyle, pills and therapy only seemed to make his state of mind worse. But Kaya was like a miracle worker. She helped stop his anxiety attacks and woke him up from nightmares.
“Kaya wasn’t just a dog, she was a service dog that was specifically trained to help me. She became an ambassador for all service dogs in the U.S. She really was one-of-a-kind,” said Lyle.
Because of Kaya, he was inspired to draft the Puppies Assisting Wounded Service Members Act, or the PAWS Act. For years, he worked to get it signed into law, and it finally happened in 2021. The law provides assistance to veterans with PTSD by helping them find service dogs.
But in January of 2023, a strange lump appeared on one of Kaya’s legs. Sadly, she was diagnosed with an incurable form of cancer that quickly spread throughout her body.
Her last plane ride with Lyle was on February 2. Two days later, she passed away. In the years before her death, she had flown with him on more than 300 flights to raise awareness of the life-saving powers of service dogs.
In honor of her memory, Lyle decided to start a national program called Kaya’s K9s to offer financial assistance to veterans seeking emergency medical care for their service dogs.
According to the program’s website, emergency veterinary care can cost anywhere from $2,000 to $5,000, which can cause a strain on struggling veterans’ finances. Pet insurance is also expensive and doesn’t cover everything.