Kids can get PTSD just like adults, but service dogs help — a lot
HIGHLAND PARK — As recently as four years ago, Liam Klein was the victim of trauma he attributes to his father. He developed post-traumatic stress disorder, which he said doesn't get talked about much at all, with almost no one acknowledging it can be a problem for children.
So to provide an educational resource, as well as try to find a solution for not only his but also other kids' emotional issues, Klein started the Chaotic Spyder Foundation, which pulls dogs from high-kill shelters and trains them to be PTSD service dogs.
"It was pretty much chaotic because, especially in the early stages for me, my life was incredibly chaotic," Klein said in talking about his organization's name ("Spyder" comes from his interest in arachnids and his feeling that the word "spider" stands out more if spelled with a Y).
Klein said the group is still relatively new, and he is working hard to get the word out that it exists, but it has already caught the eye of some very famous folks. Just recently, Oprah Winfrey contacted Klein to sponsor the selection and training of a new service dog at a cost of $20,000.
Any dog can potentially be a service dog, Klein said — his is a great Pyrenees named Einstein — but factors such as age and temperament are most important, as well as whether or not the dog can get along with other pets and, of course, children.
One of the biggest problems is finding foster homes for each dog Chaotic Spyder identifies as a good match, and that's a huge part of the organization's mission.
"After everything I've been through, I don't want anyone else — especially a child, like a 9-year-old, which is what I was when I got it — to ever have to go through that again," Klein said.
Chaotic Spyder is just coming off of PTSD Awareness Month in June, capped by its second annual Barks & Brews coffee shop event in New Brunswick. That took place on June 27, PTSD Awareness Day, and that awareness is incredibly important, according to Klein.
"I just think that it's insane that almost nobody knows that kids can get [PTSD], and there's almost no resources," he said.
The foundation also runs Tessa's Table, a pet food pantry named for a previous therapy dog in Klein's family who passed away last December. For more, check out chaoticspyder.com.