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Leesville man aims to improve veterans' mental health one service dog at a time

Deluxe Corp.

A Minnesota firm that works with millions of small businesses is celebrating its centennial year by putting the spotlight on 100 mom-and-pop companies that do good. Deluxe Corp. calls it the Small Business Revolution.

Several Louisiana firms are part of the campaign, including Brothers and Sisters in Arms Dog Training founded by Phillip Ruddock. He trained 31 service dogs last year for veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injury.

“These people have paid enough. When they get out of the military, they’re just above poverty level. With the help of my friends who have become family in Leesville, La., we started our own program and are providing this service for free,” Ruddock said.

Deluxe commissioned Austin, Texas-based documentary filmmakers to tell the stories of remarkable small businesses. Deluxe’s chief communications officer Amanda Brinkman was moved by this project. She tries to patronize local establishments whenever she can.

“I remind myself that that’s my neighbor and I’m helping them live their dream by supporting them. Not only that, but I’m helping that dollar stay local,” Brinkman said. “The owner’s kids probably go to school in my neighborhood. They live in my neighborhood. They’re paying taxes in our community. There’s a great cyclical reward.”

Ruddock, a veteran living with PTSD, started his company six years ago when he had a breakdown. He says an abused pit bull saved his life and set him on a path to train dogs for service members. Now, he crisscrosses the state assisting veterans with their four-legged companions.

“Training one-on-one with a veteran, they will talk freely with another soldier or veteran more so than they will with a civilian or a doctor,” Ruddock said. “There are things they won’t say for fear of being locked away in a psych ward or judged or condemned.”

Deluxe is producing a documentary on small businesses set to be released in September. The stories, including ones set in Lafayette and New Orleans, are at smallbusinessrevolution dot org.