On her final Southwest flight, Kaya, the German Shepherd who sparked the PAWS Act, received an honor.
The lovable Service Dog had traveled more than 250 times by air to assist her handler in influencing Congress to pass the landmark PAWS Act.
Kaya took one last flight to the funeral home after receiving the devastating news that she had incurable cancer.
Cole Lyle was struggling with the signs and symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder shortly after he left the Marine Corps.
In addition, he was having a difficult time coping with friends and fellow veterans who had committed suicide. Traditional treatments did not help Cole, like so many other service members.
However, when Cole met Kaya in 2014, everything changed.
Cole purchased Kaya from a breeder and paid out of pocket for her specialized training after learning that the VA did not readily provide service animals to veterans with PTSD.
Cole was fortunate to learn that he had a friend who trained service dogs for veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder, and he offered to train Kaya for a very low price.
“Service dogs are specially bred to perform specific tasks, such as rousing an individual from a nightmare and assisting with anxiety attacks.
When pricing a service dog, take into account the dog’s temperament, the specific training, and the cost of paying the trainers. Cole stated, “The average cost is probably closer to $20,000.”
Cole finally experienced relief from his symptoms as a result of Kaya’s companionship. He felt extremely fortunate and desired to assist other veterans with PTSD in obtaining service dogs.
Cole pursued the PAWS Act with tenacity, guided by his own experiences and with Kaya by his side. The pair flew more than 250 times beginning in 2015 to advocate for the cause.
The PAWS Act, also known as the PAWS for Veterans Therapy Act, was finally signed into law in August of 2021 thanks to the efforts of Kaya and Cole.
The PAWS Act basically mandates that the United States Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) grant organizations that train service dogs and match them with veterans.
Additionally, the PAWS Act makes changes to previous laws that only permitted service dogs for disabled veterans.
For mental health conditions like post-traumatic stress disorder, veterans can now receive a life-saving service animal.
“Kaya’s greatest legacy is — and always will be — the veterans who reached out and told me that she inspired them to get their service dog, and if they hadn’t, they would have killed themselves,” states Cole.
The average number of veterans who pass away is alarmingly high: twenty. Cole is devastated now that Kaya has crossed the rainbow bridge.
However, he finds solace in the knowledge that his beloved Shepherd has made such a significant impact on the lives of so many PTSD-afflicted veterans.
Kaya’s final flight was announced by the veteran pilot over the plane’s loudspeaker on her final flight. The video below shows Kaya being honored during her final flight. Peace to you, sweet girl.