HERMITAGE (KDKA) — The number of veterans suffering with post-traumatic stress disorder is staggering.

But a local man wants to offer some comfort to those veterans by pairing them with canine companions.

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In Hermitage, Mercer County, a 4-year-old beagle mix named King is ready to learn. He’s being trained to one day accompany a veteran.

“A dog forms a bond that is really, really comforting,” said King’s foster parent Joe Zentis, who was a captain in the Vietnam War. He believes King will make a great companion for a veteran who could use some comfort.

“The dog can detect when the veteran is having a nightmare,” said Zentis. “The dog will wake him up to break him out of the nightmare.”

The dogs can also help vets who have seizures, diabetic reactions and anxiety.

“I just think it’s important,” said Jane Baglier, another veteran who’s fostering a dog named Bella. “What some of these guys are going through that most of us don’t really understand.”

“Canines for Vets” is the idea of Tom Flynn.

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Flynn made headlines back in 1980 during the Iranian Hostage Crisis, when he began placing a flag for everyday that Americans were held captive.

The flags still stand today, and his “Avenue of 444 Flags Foundation” will pay not just for the dog’s training but also for food and veterinary bills so the veterans never have to.

“I’m out of my mind, I’m so happy about it,” said Flynn. “This is really what it’s all about – giving back – especially to veterans.”

To find out more: http://www.avenueofflags.com/canines-vets/

While “Canines for Vets” is based in Mercer County, they anticipate placing dogs throughout the area.

The first class should be ready in September.

They get their dogs from shelters or from owners who give them up.

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David Highfield