Stiggy’s Dogs


A local non-profit organization, Stiggy’s Dogs has been chosen for this year’s 2016 Senior Survivor week at Howell High School. Stiggy’s dogs was founded in 2009 by Jennifer Petre, in honor of her nephew Benjamin “Doc Stiggy” Castiglione. Castiglione, an alumni from 2006, lost his life serving our country in Afghanistan.


The Improvised Explosive Device (IED) that killed Petre’s nephew also took another marine’s life at the time; five other marines were killed within the first month of the attack. Shortly after Petre had learned of her nephew’s death, she started Stiggy’s Dogs and made the organization her top mission.


“Probably three [veterans] have taken their life because of [mental health issues and injuries] so that is where my heartfelt motivation came from,” Petre says. “Stiggy’s Dogs was in honor of Ben because I wanted everyone to know who he was. Since then it has become so much more because of the lives we have saved and this labor of love that offers a second chance for both the dog and veteran.”


Stiggy’s Dogs is an organization that provides military veterans that suffer from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and/or Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI), a way of healing by providing them with a psychiatric service dog. These dogs help their owners perform different tasks to offer their owner a better life with fewer symptoms. These service dogs are thought of no differently than prosthetic limbs; they are viewed as an extension of the owner. The dogs can only be used as an alternative form of treatment to veterans, not as a replacement for different treatments.


Stiggy’s Dogs slogan is “Rescuing One to Rescue Another,” because the dogs that are given to veterans are from rescue organizations, shelters, animal control agencies, and humane societies. This non-profit mainly raises awareness about veterans with PTSD and the potential that shelter dogs contain. On average, 22 veterans a day take their lives because they struggle with PTSD. Depression and PTSD are the most common mental health problems that returning troops are faced with today. About 11-20 out of every 100 veterans who served in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars (Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom) are experiencing symptoms of PTSD within their year of return.


“Ever since they brought Baxter to my house, he’s lead me to a lot of doors that I could’ve walked to,” recipient of Stiggy’s Dogs Tom Jones says. “But he’s helped a lot. He just helped me see more positives in everything.”


Stiggy’s Dogs is a life-changing organization that helps veterans near Livingston County and anyone that qualifies for one of their dogs. In order to qualify for the program you must be, at a minimum: a military veteran, have service related PTSD and/or TBI, been honorably or medically discharged, live within driving distance of their training facility and are willing to attend weekly sessions to complete a thorough application process.


“Every veteran that I’ve seen that has a dog, whether it’s Vietnam era or returning Afghanistan, and you know you can look into their eyes and then you can say “welcome home”,” Jones says. “You know, some Vietnam veterans still aren’t home.”


82% of the patients with PTSD that are assigned a service dog have a decrease in symptoms. Studies have shown that one in eight veterans returning from Afghanistan and Iraq will show symptoms of PTSD, and feelings of anxiety, depression, and detachment can make it challenging for veterans to settle back into civilian life.


¨We have at least five veterans in our community who have a Stiggy’s dog,¨ Petre says, ¨I love running into people and hearing about our veterans being helped by us, and Livingston County has helped us out a lot to get recognition.¨


Stiggy’s dogs has had help for their program from Howell High School in the past. Many of their training classes for their veterans were held at the Freshman Campus before they were able to move to a bigger building.


During the week of April 24, Howell High School will hold Senior Survivor week. All the money raised during this week will go towards Stiggy’s Dogs. As the organization is local, it is easier to see where the money Howell raises will go and who it will help.
¨I think it’s awesome we picked Stiggy’s Dogs this year, and I’m very proud of Howell for recognizing the need that our veterans require,¨ 10th grade counselor Mrs. Hays says. ¨I know some veterans who suffer from PTSD and some that have service dogs. Service dogs are instrumental and helpful to get the veterans back to a non combat setting.¨