Charitable donation helps West Point service dog trainer grow resources

December is the biggest month of the year for charitable donations, with experts predicting 10 percent of total donations for 2016 to come during the last 48 hours of the year.

The Opelika Kiwanis Club recently got into the giving spirit themselves by helping local veterans receive trained service dogs. On Tuesday, a trainer who is working to get even more service dogs matched with veterans in need showed how he's training one special dog in particular.

Originally from South Africa, a K-9 specialist known to many as Fanie is busy getting his new service dog named Bug, up to speed.

Soon Bug or as many in the South call him, Buck, will be able to turn off lights, open doors, clear rooms, and most importantly, provide emotional support.

"They send soldiers these days off to war when they're still kids. Their brains are not experienced to take this war," said Fanie.

Recently the Kiwanis Club of Opelika donated money to help Fanie train more dogs like Bug, to help local veterans living with PTSD. Fanie is training another service dog alongside Bug, to help accommodate physical challenges as well.

"I'm going to train the dog to pull the wheelchair, to do lights for him, and to retrieve his cane," said Fanie.

West Point business owner Tim Dunnigan is helping the trainer link up with veterans who could use a trained service animal, adding that the effects of companions like Bug can be life saving.

"There is a level of responsibility that comes with any living thing, and a dog is no different, and so, the relationship that veterans bond with these dogs, gives them a sense of purpose. They take that daily sense of responsibility and take care of the dog, but in essence, we find they end up taking care of themselves in the process," said Dunnigan.

Fanie is currently independently training his service dogs and is working to set up a fund where people can donate. In the meantime, however,  Kiwanis club members say anyone can make a donation to them, requesting that their contribution go toward Fanie's program or to help veterans with PTSD.

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