I’m Andrew Shaw, a US Marine Veteran of almost 8 years with a deployment to Afghanistan. My MOS was Engineer Equipment Operator. I give full credit to my wife for doing the research that led us to SD4V. We already had our dog named Moses, a 1-1/2 year-old Bernedoodle, and knowing we could do more to train him to be my Service Dog was something I was really looking forward to doing.
During a presentation last year at the American Legion Post 3 in Greenville by Bill and graduate Mel Kahue, I learned about SD4V. Following that meeting, I discovered what else I needed to know through their website. www.sd4v.org What made me serious about applying was learning that the Veteran trains their own dog. I already have a 1-1/2yr old English Cocker Spaniel named Lilly I wanted to train.
I met Bill when he spoke at our American Legion Post in Greenville. I learned SD4V could find the perfect rescue dog for me and receive training. After applying and being accepted, Jacquie Myers contacted me. Jacquie is a Marine Veteran, SD4V graduate herself, and an adoption specialist with SD4V.
After I got my new German Shepherd puppy named Ace, I credit my wife Melissa for discovering SD4V. I was excited to think about how learning to train Ace myself would create a special bond that wouldn’t have been possible if someone else were to train him.
I was inspired to check out the SD4V website when I saw the changes in my son who is also a Veteran and training his dog with SD4V. I then contacted Bill. At first, I was not sure about joining my 4yr old rescue lab named Chaplin, but he was so encouraging that I decided to give it a try.
An associate at the VA told me about SD4V, but for a while, I dragged my feet about contacting Bill until I decided I needed to do something about my PTSD which was causing more problems. After finally talking with Bill and learning that I could take my dog Bentley through the program, “I ended the call feeling wanted”.
While working with Wounded Warriors I learned about SD4V. After checking out the website, I contacted Bill who explained what the outcome of the program could be. Once I started, I was pleasantly surprised to discover how organized and professional it was. Coming out of the military where structure and organization are a given, I appreciated those aspects and found it to be exactly what I needed.
In 2019 my rescue Lab mix ‘Barrett’ and I graduated from SD4V as a Service Dog team, and my life greatly improved. After Barrett’s recent death, my grandson saw my need for another dog and brought a one-year-old Australian Shepherd to me.
Recently I completed a second round of Service Dog training at SD4V with my rescue dog Peppy. I needed a refresher myself, and my buddy Steve was also going through a second time with his new dog Luke, and I wanted to be there with them.
When I started training at SD4V my main concern was whether my rescue dog Lucy, a 2 year old Lab Golden mix, could learn to be a Service Dog since she’d been a happy-go-lucky family pet for most of her life. That concern was eliminated when Lucy learned the focus exercises taught in classes.
The VA had pushed medications as the answer for me, but I knew that was not what I wanted. After another Marine told me about SD4V, I got excited when I checked the website and found what could be the answer for me.
Another SD4V graduate told me about the program and got me interested in joining. Now that Anela and I are a graduated Service Dog team, I am just as excited as I was when we first began training. Anela is a 1-1/2-year-old German Shepherd rescue.
As college courses I was taking became increasingly difficult, I realized that having a service dog was the only way I could continue, and “the SD4V program represented the opportunity to be a normal person again”.
It was my VA counselor who first suggested that Service Dogs for Veterans and a dog would be helpful to me. I adopted a Chihuahua/Pekingese puppy from a breeder, named him Pablo, and just like a puppy he was all over the place.
I served in the US Army from 2005 through 2009, stationed at Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe (SHAPE) and assigned to the Supreme Allied Commander of Europe (SACEUR) communications team, 128th Signal Company.
After rescuing my dog named Ellie, I began the search for someone to train her as my service dog. The result was a disappointment until I discovered SD4V during a Google search. After talking about the program with Jessica, I began to feel I was moving forward instead of backward.
My interest in getting a service dog peaked after hearing about how they could help by watching a program on NPR. Then I researched and found the SD4V website and Facebook. The idea of me training my own service dog really appealed to me.
Truthfully, I never imagined myself being able to train my own dog, and prior to beginning training, I was nervous and unsure whether I could do it. However, my confidence increased when I saw the progress that my dog Carter and I made midway through the program.
While working as a nurse at Kindred In-Home Caregivers I met James Ault, volunteering there, with his service dog. I knew trained dogs can be beneficial, watching James and Elsa made me realize I needed more help than the VA provided.
Having already begun to train my dog Vader while researching service dog training programs, I discovered that other organizations did not want to accept a dog into their program that the Veteran had already begun training.
While living in Texas, my dog Doc was given to me as an 8-week-old puppy by Operation Battle Buddies in Cibola, Texas. Founded by the parents of two military veterans, OBB breeds Labrador Retrievers to be service dogs for military veterans.
I had learned about SD4V by doing some online research and was both excited and anxious when I found that I could enter the program. The anxiety was related to the more than 2-hour drive to classes. I knew it would be challenging.
When I first discussed the SD4V program with Bill Brightman, I knew the timing was not right for me. However, I also knew that having a dog with me when out in public would be key to reducing my anxiety. I was asked whether I would recommend the program to others…
As a member of the Vets Helping Vets organization of South Carolina, I learned about SD4V from two graduates, Steve & Gary. Once my dog Gracy and I began training, I was excited to learn how smart she is.
Since I had tried other ways of gaining help, when I first began the SD4V program I hoped it could just help in some way. Although my anxiety ramped up when I learned the training would take 8 or 9 months, that time actually flew by making the needed effort well worth it.
Tiffany Elliott served our country as a member of the US Marine Corps as a Field Wireman. During her service years, she was deployed to Okinawa, Japan as well as Thailand, Australia, Guam, Korea, and the Philippines.
Now that the organization has a new training center, the support was even better, and I experienced no disappointments. Now that T’Chala and I have graduated it felt like I was getting straight A’s and I am ecstatic that now I’m part of a service dog team once again. The support and schedule flexibility I received made it worth the time and effort.
Apprehension best describes how I felt as I began the training program due to my concern regarding opening up about my disabilities and PTSD. My rescue dog Hudson is typically shy, but the pivotal moment for me was understanding how the positive affirmation recommended and practiced during training made all the difference with her.
The support I received throughout training by Jessica, James, and Bill was without question highly beneficial. I could reach out to any of them for answers or confirmation as needed. Being that James had a similar military experience as I and considering he is a graduate and instructor, regular communication with him was of great value.
“I’m elated with our success and that Yogi has earned his official Service Dog credentials. We can now go out anywhere, even sit wherever we choose in a restaurant.” So, I’m eager to show others how well-trained Yogi is and more importantly just what a Service Dog can do.
While my daughter was training her dog at Dog Trainers Workshop, Jacquie Myers, a SD4V graduate and Veteran Advocate, approached me to talk about the Service Dogs training program. Unaware that it even existed, after going through the application process I was excited to learn I had been accepted into the program.
Comfortable staying at home, I typically avoided venturing out much beyond shopping with my wife. I was nervous about the SD4V training program knowing it would take me out of my comfort zone. But I was greeted with open arms and reassured that I should just trust the process.
“I’m not afraid to do things now.” I am better equipped to go out and to travel, Zelda & I just returned from a get-together with friends and now planning a cruise!
The SD4V training is “Pretty Awesome!” I had looked into other training programs and found the costs to be prohibitive, causing me to pretty much give up. Marshall came into my life and I found SD4V. Now as a Service Dog team, I’m more comfortable going out and about and go with more confidence in both myself and Marshall. That comfort level in public began with the Public Access classes.
Just getting out and coming to classes was memorable, and discovering that Liam could sense any of my anxiety associated with the training, Liam would alert me. Liam’s reactions were the beginning of the bond between us.
Proof of training success began during the Beginner class when I told her to go to Place and she actually went. Then, in Intermediate class, she began giving me her full attention on command.
At the point where I applied for acceptance into the SD4V training program, I had not yet officially received a disability rating so I had no confidence I would get in. But once everything fell into place, the extent to which the program was designed to be helpful so the Veterans and dogs succeed came as a complete surprise.
“We’re always here for you.” Could there be any more crucially important words for a person with PTSD to hear? That’s what I repeatedly heard from volunteers and the training staff once I began the SD4V program. Initially, I had wondered what I had gotten myself into when my dog Harley and I began puppy training classes.
Knowing the stringent requirements that must be met in order to be accepted into the SD4V training program I was elated to learn my dog Lason and I had been accepted. Having served in the US Marine Corps during the Gulf War, I was used to strict guidelines and Bill made it clear what I could expect and how training would help me.
As a US Navy jet engine mechanic, I served aboard the USS John F. Kennedy during the Desert Storm operation. My rescue dog Daisy had some basic obedience training as a puppy, and it became clear once the SD4V team assessed her knowledge that their training would carry her beyond those mastered abilities.
As a combat Marine, my unit was the first “boots on the ground” combat contingency during Operation Desert Storm. After my discharge a fellow Veteran had encouraged me to seek help although he himself had not done so as yet. Originally I thought the SD4V training would result in my dog Biscuit becoming a companion dog.
With pride I served the US Army as a helicopter pilot, airborne paratrooper, and as commander of an Army Ranger Unit in addition to a mechanized infantry unit. After serving in Viet Nam, Desert Storm, and Desert Shield, I was a staff member at the Pentagon as Research Manager for Missile Command, retiring as an Army Colonel.
I am an Army veteran and since my discharge it has been difficult to be out in public and even going to the store without having panic attacks.
I am a US Army veteran. After seeing other Veterans with their Service Dogs, I realized that I too needed one because of my symptoms.
Originally, I enrolled in a service dog program in Georgia, however, I became frustrated with their disorganization and the extensive travel required for class.
Simply put, being with the Veterans and their dogs, seeing they were just like me and my dog Ace, was indescribably helpful. It quickly became apparent how easy the training really was and as Ace and I learned techniques and tasks, I was able to relax.
Each of our Veterans has a story that brought them to us. We want to hear your story, and help you to write a new chapter of hope for a more promising future.