BOYDS, Md. (WDVM) — They say dogs are a mans best friend.

Strong and compassionate, dogs have the ability to alter the way we live and see life, and Warrior Canine Connection helps hone those skills.

Warrior Canine Connection is a non-profit organization that uses therapeutic service dogs to help returning combat Veterans who have sustained physical and psychological wounds. They involve wounded warriors who are struggling with psychological injuries and have them train the dogs for their fellow veterans.

“By having veterans involved in the training of dogs for a fellow vet, one dog is able to impact the lives of so many, dozens and dozens of veterans who help to train the dog over the two years or so that it takes to get the dog ready for placement,” said founder and Executive Director of WCC, Rick Yount.

If anyone knows how impactful these service dogs are, it would be Air force, Veteran Ryan Garrison. Garrison joined the Air Force after the 9/11 attacks. While in Iraq, Garrison injured his back which resulted in him having to have numerous surgeries, chronic pain, and anxiety. 

When he returned from Iraq, Ryan learned he suffered from PTSD. With some help from his wife, Ryan Garrison found WCC and went through training where he met his right-hand man, Luke. The six-year-old Labrador Retriever and mobility service dog, who is named after fallen Marine 1st Sgt Luke Mercardante, helps Ryan better control his anxiety and PTSD. 

“If I didn’t have him, I’m not sure where I’d be,” said Garrison. “It makes me feel good to love on him and treat him, and it kind of releases that oxytocin in your system so it makes you feel a little better and it takes you out of that depression and raises you up.”

At WCC, it is the belief that the dog chooses the person, not the other way around. Luke chose Ryan, and some believe it was a match made in heaven. WCC’s founder Rick believes his organization is the equivalent of the popular dating site “Eharmony”, except WCC (or D-Harmony as he would call it) is matchmaking for dogs and human

“The D-harmony was there with Luke and Ryan. It was pretty clear that they a match, pretty much from the beginning,” said Yount.

It’s a relationship that both Yount and Garrison believe other veterans would useful.

“It takes a lot of courage to actually admit that there’s something wrong and there’s something that you need to be fixed and work on it and it brings a whole new meaning to your life,” said Garrison.

Over 5000 veterans have participated in the program, and WCC has placed nearly 80 service dogs. To learn more about WCC, its mission, and how you can play a part, click here.

In December, Warrior Canine Connection announced that service dog Luke was named the winner of the 21st annual AKC Humane Fund Awards for Canine Excellence (ACE) in the service dog category. Luke was one of five winners. 

This is an exciting time for Luke and the Garrison family. Not only have they won this ACE award, but they have also launched a new non-profit called Valor Therapeutics. Valor Therapeutics provides creative arts therapies to active duty Veterans and first responders in Dayton, Ohio.