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Blog - Soldier's Best Friend

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Soldier’s Best Friend:

Touching Two Lives at Once

When you play at Gila River Hotels & Casinos, you play for good. Did you know that under the Arizona Tribal-State Gaming compacts, 12% of the tribe’s contribution to the state has been invested back into Arizona to improve education, healthcare, conservation and public safety throughout the state? To show you how these tribal gaming revenues directly impact organizations, we are celebrating our partnership with Soldier’s Best Friend this month.

What is Soldier’s Best Friend?

Soldier’s Best Friend is a local non-profit that pairs U.S. military veterans living with combat-related Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) or Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) with service or therapeutic companion dogs, most of which are rescued from local animal shelters, at no cost to the veteran.

Here’s how it works: Once a veteran is accepted into the training program, they are paired with a dog adopted by the nonprofit from a local shelter or have the option to train with their own dog, if that dog passes medical and behavior evaluations. The pair live and train together from that point forward and create an unbreakable bond!

Training includes basic obedience, public outings and tasks specific to each veteran's PTSD or TBI symptoms. Once the dog is fully trained in all of these skills, it will be qualified as a Service Dog or classified as a Therapeutic Companion Dog and is now ready to accompany and support their veteran full time.

The program is truly a win-win for the veteran and the dog - it provides veterans with the confidence they need to successfully reenter their communities and provides shelter dogs with a second chance and an honorable mission in serving their partner.

Playing for Good

Gila River Hotels & Casinos is annually one of the organization’s top donors and Soldier’s Best Friend relies on the funding to function every day. The grant from Gila River supported the Soldier’s Best Friend training program and was instrumental in building the Peoria training facility that serves as the organization’s headquarters. In one year alone, funding from Gila River allowed Soldier’s Best Friend to serve 118 veterans, save 35 dogs from shelters, provide 2,500 hours of training to veteran/dog teams and expand the program to provide training equipment, veterinary care and more.

10 Years of Training

This year, Soldier’s Best Friend celebrates their 10th anniversary. Over the last 10 years, the organization has paired over 300 veteran/dog teams and rescued more than 180 homeless dogs from Arizona animal shelters and rescue partners.

Thanks to funds generated at Gila River Hotels & Casinos, Soldier’s Best Friend can continue to touch two lives at once while inspiring countless others.

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