Where did you serve and what did you do?
I served a one year tour in Vietnam in 1968 as a Helicopter Radio Repairman – 35L20. After my three year enlistment was up, I joined the Illinois Air Nation Guard in Springfield, IL and served nine years as a ECM Technician (Electronics Counter Measures) working on the Phantom F-4 Aircraft. My last years in the military were spent with the Montana Army Nation Guard in Billings, MT as Supply Sergeant for an S&T Detachment.
Tell us how your dog is helping you continue #StillServing in your community.
Our two-year-old Labrador Retriever, Don, started as a 13-week-old visitor in our home. My wife and I volunteered to be puppy raisers for little fur ball Don, a prospective Guide Dog /Service Dog puppy for Southeastern Guide Dogs in Palmetto, Florida. At the time we had, and still do have, two other lovable yellow Labs that kept us busy.
We wanted to do something more for veterans. And since we thought Don would be with us only temporarily for socializing and basic training, we took on the challenge.
Bi-weekly meetings in Atlanta with other puppy raisers gave us guidance and set goals needed for the highly demanding job of Guide or Service Dog. Don was quick to learn how to ignore distractions such as other dogs and animals, how to walk closely on a loose leash, how to allow body handling, and many other protocols. After his 15-month stay with us, Don would go on to the “college level” at the Palmetto Campus for another year of advanced training.
Because of a few minor medical issues, and cutbacks at the training facility due to the COVID pandemic, Don was released from the program when he was nine months old. Southeastern has set very high standards for their “graduates.” We were fortunate to be able to adopt Don and he is now our family pet. I like to think of Don and our two girls as “my therapy dogs” because they bring so much joy and love to my life.
After Don was “career-changed”, Sue got him certified for pet therapy with the Alliance of Therapy Dogs. She and Don visit local assisted living facilities and nursing homes to provide pet therapy to residents, including memory care and hospice patients. Veterans are among the folks that Don visits every week. They look forward to seeing Don as much as he looks forward to seeing them.
Sue and Don also help out at some of our VFW Post events. They have attended brick dedications at our Veterans Memorial and helped out at our most recent Buddy Poppy Drive to raise much needed funds for veterans.
Through our affiliation with Southeastern Guide Dogs and Warrior Canine Connection in Boyds, Maryland, we have learned so much about the benefits of having one of these wonderful companions. We encourage any veteran who has a desire to have a Service Dog, or to learn about the wonderful benefits of sharing your life with one of these amazing animals, please don’t delay. There are many organizations that can help.
Why do you do it?
I feel I have more to give and enjoy the mission of helping veterans who gave more than I did.