Meet Service Dog Class 299
Congratulations Class #299!
Join us in congratulating Service Dog Class #299, a group of seasoned veterans who know what it is to persevere. They’ve worked hard to overcome doubts and fears. They’ve succeeded in bonding with their service dogs and each other. Now, they’ve headed home with new feelings of pride and accomplishment—and new best friends by their sides.
Meet the Class
Rey Oregon was a “military brat” growing up, followed by 20 years of military service, including Air Force special forces training, being an aircraft mechanic, serving as an Army interrogation instructor, and then returning to active-duty Air Force. After deploying to multiple conflicts after 9/11, transitioning out of military life was rough. But a sweet and inquisitive service dog named Bowes has come to “inject that bit of happiness that animals do,” Rey says with relief.
John Durocher served 20 years in the Army, including two tours to Iraq. He lost too many friends and admits that it was rough along the way. But this veteran never felt that his level of post-traumatic stress was worthy of a service dog—that others were more deserving. With the encouragement of his mental health doctors at the VA and at his wife’s urging, John researched Southeastern Guide Dogs. “It’s been a great journey,” he says. “It’s been a long way. But it’s definitely been worth it.” He’s been matched with Ryder, a “big lap dog” that John describes as “fun-loving, caring, and very compassionate.”
After two decades in the Army infantry, Andy Brown felt anxious and uncomfortable in his own skin. He isolated indoors and relied on his wife as his “service human.” Self-medicating with alcohol didn’t help, and Andy’s problems escalated until he could no longer ignore the pain. After two years of sobriety and many conversations with a VA friend/social worker/counselor who has a service dog, Andy applied and has been paired with Porto. “I’m learning to be human again,” Andy says gratefully. Porto will help him transition from home back to the classroom when his high school teaching job returns to its post-Covid normalcy.
George Francey served in Vietnam on a Navy vessel, then as a military policeman responding to emergencies. Add in a back injury and the deaths of friends with whom he had trained, and George found himself facing post-traumatic stress. In 2016, Southeastern Guide Dogs provided him with Jady, an emotional support dog, or ESA. “Jady is my lifeline, along with my family,” George says. The team was invited to return to campus for service dog training, and upon completion of additional home training, Jady will transition to becoming a service dog with full access rights.
We’re happy to welcome Class #299 to the Southeastern Guide Dogs family. To all our newest alumni, well done!
Read more details about Rey, John, Andy, and George—and the dogs at their sides—here in Class 299’s commencement program.
Click here to read an accessible PDF for the visually impaired.