Dogs Make a Difference for Class #254

Veteran Service Dog Class 254

(L to R): Trainer Kimberly Hyde, Robert and service dog D. Don, Trainer Wendy Krug, Patrick and service dog Clifford, Richard and service dog Jet, William and service dog Lee, Trainer Katie Young, Thomas and service dog Hadley, Quinn and service dog Jannus, Michael and service dog Muffin, Trainer Marisa Gerlach, Rick and service dog Roman, and Trainer Jessica Collins

Each of these recent graduates is a military veteran from different branches of the service, and each turned to Southeastern Guide Dogs to find relief from symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Symptoms of PTSD may often include suicidal ideations, depression, anxiety, hypervigilance, nightmares, sleeplessness, reclusiveness, and more. In training, our students learn to refocus on their dog and away from stress triggers, and rely on the dog to “watch,” “block,” “check,” and other commands to better maintain a sense of calmness.

  • Robert has been matched with D. Don or “Mr. D.” as Robert calls his black Labrador service dog, a friendly and laidback fellow that loves to observe everything around him. “It didn’t take long for us to bond,” he says. “I have a lot of hyper-vigilance so the ‘block’, ‘watch’ and ‘search’ commands that D. Don knows will help me a lot.”
  • Patrick has been paired with Clifford, a golden retriever with a bright, red coat almost the same color as Patrick’s hair. Clifford, a “big red dog,” is a “fun, goofy and happy” addition to his handler’s life. Patrick knows that Clifford will help absorb job anxiety and cheer him up with hugs and cuddles. “I’m anticipating having a life, moving forward with a smile, and having a little more optimism,” he says.
  • Richard hoped to be paired with a male yellow Labrador, and his service dog, Jet, is a dream come true. “He’s a very kind soul who is sensitive and giving but also very receptive. He’s like a dog version of me. We have a lot in common and have already established a line of communication. We are one person, connected by a leash.”
  • William (Bill) has been matched with a “goofy, playful, and very smart” black Labrador named Lee, his service dog and constant companion. “Depression is a big thing, and stress,” Bill says. “Being alone doesn’t help, and Lee is a big help on that part. I turn around and he’s there. I call him and he’s there. I like the companionship of him being there, which I need.”
  • A calm, obedient black Labrador named Hadley has come to stay with Thomas. “I feel like there’s more of a calmness to me,” Thomas says. “Some of my students told me that the classroom feels a lot more relaxed, too. As time goes on, I think I’ll see significant change in my ability to cope and relax. Relaxation isn’t something I understand.”
  • Quinn’s service dog, Jannus, is extremely playful and will fit right in with Quinn’s big family. “She gives me hugs even when I’m not asking for them,” he says. “As I start to feel better, I’ll get out of the house more. That’s the goal.”
  • Mike has been paired with his service dog Muffin, a playful black Labrador that quickly switches into work mode when her coat goes on. She now serves as a comforting barrier between Mike and the rest of the world. He and Muffin have formed a tight bond, and since meeting her, something has changed. “I’ve been able to breathe a little more,” he says. “I’m more calm.
  • A “big teddy bear” of a black Labrador named Roman now stands beside Rick, offering total, unconditional love. “Dogs can tell when you’re nervous; they can tell when you’re upset,” he says. “It’s hard to describe but with Roman, I feel different. I feel complete. My wife’s noticed the change; she said she can tell a difference.”

Posted on March 22, 2017 | Category: Blog, Graduates