Three dogs provided and $72,000 raised for K9 Elite

Ryan Fitzmaurice

K9 Elite, a nonprofit created to raise, train and provide service dogs to veterans in need free of charge, continues to grow.
Case in point was the Veterans and First Responders banquet held on November 11 at the Heart Mountain Building in Powell.
Last year 250 attended the event, raising a total of nearly $60,000 toward training and providing dogs. This year,  only the second annual banquet, with the non-profit only in its fourth year of operation, 300 attended the banquet, raising $72,000.
“We were sold out,” said Wes Mangus, who heads K9 Elite and runs Trieven-Sungold Kennels. “In the small communities we live in, there is tons and tons of support. It all  gets put back out for the veterans and first responders. We don’t make a dime, and they don’t pay nothing. It goes toward their dogs’ training and certification.”
The organization has trained and provided 26 service dogs to veterans in need in this past year. Mangus said the $70,000 raised will give him the ability to train up to 15 dogs this year.
Again, it’s a show of growth for the nonprofit. As the nonprofit started, the goal was to train four dogs a year. This previous year, Mangus was able to train 14 dogs.
“It all means the world to me,” Mangus said. “When I started this, I had the vision to be able to do this without the recipients having to pay a thing. In four short years, we’ve been able to do that 26 times. We now have the possibility to train 15 more dogs this following year, and we hope to maintain at that level.”
The event featured a catered meal and an auction and more meaningfully featured three veterans receiving needed service dogs.
Among the veterans that received service dogs at Saturday’s event was Max Hansen of Powell, who served in the U.S. Navy for eight and a half years as a nuclear machinist on the USS Nimitz.
Also receiving a service dog was Robert Cole, who lives in Iron River, Michigan. Cole served for four years and seven months. Based at Fort Riley, Kansas, with the 1-4 Calvary Regiment, Cole deployed to Iraq in 2007. After he suffered multiple combat injuries he was medically discharged with full retirement in 2010. According to reporting from the Powell Tribune, Cole received two purple hearts during his service.
The final veteran to receive a service dog was Ann Williams. Williams served the U.S. Navy for 29 years as a nurse where her specialty was serving in the operating room. In comments provided to Wes Mangus, she took care of casualties while at Walter Reed Bethesda and was also stationed on the hospital ship Comfort.
According to Mangus, training for service dogs costs between $5,000 and $7,000 per dog. Service dogs are trained to counter anxiety, PTSD and various other ailments veterans may face.