Meet Class #279


service dog class - 6 men and their dogs

Pictured left to right: Mike and service dog Lawson, trainer Amy Bernard, Johnny and service dog Papa Bear, trainer Amanda Velasquez, Jeff and service dog Murphy, trainer Katie Young, Bob and service dog Leisa, trainer Anne Savo, Donny and service dog Kathy, trainer Laska Parrow, Derek and service dog Maggie, trainer Emily Dombrowski


Congratulations Class #279!

Congratulations to our recent graduates and service dogs of Class #279. The combined determination, can-do-attitudes, and commitment of this group of veterans are inspiring. We honor their success and welcome them to the Southeastern Guide Dogs family. Let’s meet the class!

  • As a Marine infantryman, Mike fought in the first Gulf War and spent time in Kuwait, Okinawa, Thailand, Russia, and Somalia. He later worked in Kuwait and Iraq as a contractor.  Mike received a job offer with National Land Partners, and when the company’s owner later became involved with Southeastern Guide Dogs, he encouraged Mike to look into our veteran’s programs. Now Mike has been matched with his laid back, easygoing service dog, Lawson.
  • Jonny served for four years in the Air Force as an intelligence analyst and deployed with the Army’s 5th Special Forces Group in Iraq. After extensive research on service dogs, Jonny applied for his own. Now he has a lovable, snuggly, hardworking yellow Lab named Papa Bear by his side.
  • Jeff is a former Navy doctor and Lt. Commander once stationed at Naval Hospital Camp Pendleton and U.S. Fleet Activities Sasebo, Japan. Needing a service dog after an 8-year military career was something he did not want to share. Once Jeff became comfortable seeking help, a black Lab named Murphy has risen to the occasion. Jeff’s wife, children, and their pet goldendoodle, Lola, are all excited about Murphy!
  • A retired Army National Guard veteran, Bob joined the military out of loyalty to friends fighting in the Vietnam war. “It might sound strange, but I remember thinking, ‘I can’t let all my friends go and not support them,’” he says of his deployment to Vietnam with the U.S. Navy Seabees. Now he’s been matched a smart yellow Lab named Leisa, his first service dog. Leisa won his heart the first day they met!
  • In four years with the Marines, Donny deployed twice to Iraq as an infantry machine gunner during Operation Iraqi Freedom. He nearly took a third tour until he learned that it would break his mother’s heart. After meeting one of our alumni, Donny realized that a service dog meant never being alone, and now he’s got an energetic, smart, and hardworking black Lab named Kathy by his side.
  • Derek honorably served in the Air Force for ten years as a network engineer. He was deployed twice to Qatar and once to Afghanistan, and now works as a civilian network engineer at MacDill Air Force Base. Derek looks forward to taking his new service dog, Maggie, to work with him.

We celebrate your achievements, Class #279, and wish you all a successful journey with your service dogs. Welcome to the Southeastern Guide Dogs family!

Posted on June 13, 2019 | Category: Blog