Herzog Heroes offers companion and therapy dogs for those in need

Herzog German Shepherds of Crystal Lake, Illinois, has started a nonprofit to provide free companion and therapy dogs to people who are disabled or have experienced trauma, as well as those who work with them.

The dogs, known as Herzog's Heroes, are all West German Show Line Shepherds, which are known for their docility, protectiveness and suitability to home and family life. Through an extensive application and vetting process, Herzog owner Kate Dalman wants to place some of her dogs with people who need them.

"Obtaining a dog like this is usually a very expensive proposition," Dalman says. "If I have dogs who I think can make someone's life better, I want to get them into that person's hands."

A companion dog would be suitable for someone who needs love and companionship after going through some trauma. A therapy dog would need a higher level of training for someone who suffers from anxiety, panic attacks or other emotional issues. A facility dog works in a hospital or treatment facility with a handler and sees patients.

Qualifying applicants include veterans, the disabled and people who've been through major trauma, as well as handlers who use animals to help people work through those issues.The lucky candidate receives the dog, valued at around $3,400 plus the cost of training, for free. The dogs can range in age from puppies to young adults.

"If they receive a companion puppy, they'll need to give it basic obedience training," Dalman says. "If they need a therapy or facility dog, the training requirements will be different depending on the type of therapy or facility dog. Some of the training will be done by us, but more will likely be needed."

The dogs come with some strings attached, however, to ensure that it is successful in its new home - which is Dalman's goal for all of the dogs and puppies she places. Through the application process, it's determined whether the prospective owner is capable of caring for the dog, seeing to veterinary care and making sure it gets enough exercise.

Dalman does her best to ensure a dog's parents are healthy, with no genetic traits that may lead to illness, and have correct body structure, known as conformation. But, she says, there are no guarantees that a dog will never become sick.

Likewise, she says, "we can't guarantee a dog's every behavior. The dogs we choose are good candidates and have service dog-worthy temperaments, but if someone handles the dog improperly, that doesn't mean they have a faulty dog."

Herzog's Heroes do come with support from Dalman and her trainers. "We'll set them up for success with a care plan before they even have the pup, and once the dog is with them, we'll help any way we can.

"The primary goal is the success of the dog in his or her new home."

If things don't work out, Dalman will take the dog back "so we can be sure he or she has the proper care."

Dalman says she's working on setting up training so that Herzog's Heroes can expand into the service dog area. Meanwhile, people interested in applying for a Herzog Hero can learn more by visiting

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