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Lozier Community Grant program supports retired military through service dog support through Heartland Canines for Veterans

Lozier Community Grant program supports retired military through service dog support through Heartland Canines for Veterans

In its second year, the employee-led Lozier Community Grant program supported 50 nonprofit organizations across the country. Recipients were selected by employee committees in all five Lozier locations.  Over the next couple of months, the recipient organizations’ stories of impact will be shared on LozierLink.

When you see Jimmy Burgess and his dog Riley together, the connection between them is obvious.

“Time to go to work?” Burgess asked his service dog, preparing the nearly-two-year-old golden retriever for her tasks. For Burgess, the partnership was a culmination of a life-changing opportunity.

“I got into the veteran community, doing veteran organizational stuff for the last seven years, and I just found a home with Heartland Canines for Veterans,” Burgess said. The operation trains service dogs and their human partners, building the relationship to address the needs of disability. Found in 2015, the group’s leaders spotted a rising need for veterans requiring services dogs in the Four State Area. Burgess joined the operation in 2022, eventually becoming the group’s director.

“When you’re looking at a service dog team being created, it’s very intimate,” Burgess said. “We didn’t want it to be just, ‘You get a dog, you get a dog and you get a dog.’” Based in Neosho, Missouri, Heartland Canines for Veterans has delivered dogs to retired military members across the country. Striving to ensure each pairing is perfect, volunteers and staff vet and verify potential candidates while offering direct, meaningful training to build the bond between service dog and handler.

“Since we’ve started, we’ve trained probably 40 teams now, close to 40 different teams since 2015,” Burgess said. In 2023, Burgess welcomed Riley into his life, relying on her support to take on post-traumatic stress disorder from time spent serving in the military and as a first responder. The golden retriever uses a variety of techniques, providing Burgess with a barrier and constant reassurance when a situation starts to turn overwhelming.

“She does post and watch, she does pressure therapy, so if she can feel I’m having some kind of anxious moment, she’ll just lean her body right up against me, just as that little bit of pressure to be like, ‘Hey, you’re not alone, I’m here,’” Burgess said. He credited Riley’s impact as substantial, saying he’s been able to dial back his anxiety medication as much as 75 percent.

Heartland Canines for Veterans is one of the six Joplin-area operations receiving funding from the Lozier Community Grant program. The funding provided for Riley’s training and upbringing. Burgess said he’s proud of Lozier’s commitment to communities across the country, especially its support of veterans and their needs.

“To be able to be a part of that and to be listened to and understood, you know, what our goals are moving forward and how we help veterans is invaluable,” Burgess said. “The level of training and the level of passion and heart that goes into each one of these service teams is only made possible by organizations like Lozier.”