Most of us have seen service dogs helping former soldiers with everyday struggles. Now a Commerce man has a new program that is sprouting wings.
Daniel Walthers is training ravens and crows to work with soldiers who have PTSD. Walthers founded a program called C.A.W.S. which stands for Corvids Assisting Wounded Soldiers.
Kim Nelson is a Vietnam Veteran who said his life was in shambles for years. He has been diagnosed with PTSD. For the past week he has trained with an African white-necked Raven named Lily, his new companion bird.
"In one week my life has gotten better," said Nelson.
Walthers said ravens and crows are the smartest birds in the world. He said they can be trained to do small tasks like turn lights off and pick up little objects like pens.
"But it's more of a mental thing and how they work with those who have PTSD. They give someone reason to get up in the morning, to have a companion," said Walthers.
He said the birds form strong one on one bonds.
Nelson is from Minnesota. He came to Commerce to pick up Lily. They've been training together for a week in outdoor settings and inside. They've been going to stores like Red Hound Antiques in Commerce, just to browse or shop. It helps the bird get accustomed to everyday activities. Kim said he's already bonded with Lily.
He said "She's changed my life, she's such a sweetheart."
Walthers doesn't expect birds to replace dogs as service animals, but he said there are a lot of benefits to having a bird like Lily, including the fact that this type of bird can live to be 60 years old. It's a companion that will be around for a lifetime.