When I was introduced to Haley, adopted by the SD4V Team from Greenville County Animal Care, it was like Haley adopted me and my wife Chris and our granddaughter Aaliyah. We all had an instant connection. Very soon Haley began sleeping with me and wakening me when I'm having nightmares. The result has been no more nightmares! I awaken more rested and have been able to back off most medications. The improvement is significant enough for my therapist to minimize our number of sessions which allows more time to help my wife raise our granddaughter. Participating in class my granddaughter learned that when Haley is wearing her vest, Haley is 100% devoted to her 'Papa'. She has learned there are boundaries when Haley is wearing her vest which helps her understand that Papa sometimes needs Haley's help. When the vest comes off, Haley is very attentive and playful with her and they have the best time together. Having Haley as my service dog gave me a new beginning and there's no stopping us now. Concentrating on her in public distracts me from focusing on stressors and as a result I think less about 'scary things'. Haley keeps me grounded and brings me back, snapping me out of a funk. She sleeps beside me and awakens me in the morning telling me it's time to get up. She gets me out of the chair, out of the house, and gives me a routine, something specific to do. One of her 4 Tasks is to Cover me when in line in a store. This gives me a strong sense of security and it's helped enormously. The most important result of being a service dog team is that my mental state now has balance in my physical life. Was it worth the time and effort for training? Absolutely! I was pleasantly surprised at the friendships I made connecting with other Veterans andam happy to have found this network. I always felt supported especially when feeling down. Now I want to give back. Being around Bill Brightman makes you want to do that.
Bruce & Haley
As a way to help alleviate my own symptoms I volunteered to be Veteran Advocate for a wheelchair bound US Marine Veteran who was in the program training his dog. At one point Bill Brightman and the Dog Trainers Workshop staff told me about a dog named Barrett. Barrett had been adopted from Greenville County Animal Care, had a rough background but great potential, and he needed a home similar to what I could offer. As soon as I met him, it was incredible, like a match made in heaven. We needed each other and we knew it almost instantly! When my Marine buddy graduated, I began the program with my new dog Barrett. I had high expectations, but found it was better than I had expected. Seeing how the program works, the changes in people and how their lives and that of their dogs have changed, were the most memorable aspects of the training for me. I was surprised that I actually finished because I typically do not finish things I sign on to. As one of twelve children in my immediate family, the connection with other Veterans as a military family is immensely important to me. That alone made the training absolutely worth the time and effort. And the support throughout the program was unbelievable. The most important elements that have recently come into my life are my grandson, my service dog Barrett, other military Veterans and Veteran service dog teams. Barrett does many things for me and how he responds in different situations is important to both of us. He's learning to trust me and I stay within the dog's eyesight as it's important for him to be able to see me at all times. My relationship with Barrett allows me to eliminate medications completely and rely on vitamins instead as I focus on getting healthy. Because of our partnership I intend to continue attending SD4V classes and offer my help to other Veterans. What I would say to any Veteran considering getting a service dog, "Go for it! No doubt about it; go for it! Having Barrett and the training is one of the best things that ever happened to me."
Steve & Barrett
When Bill Brightman asked me what word popped into my mind as I began the SD4V program I said 'Hope', referring to my hope of getting back to normal and reducing anxieties that cause me to leave situations or crowds. But when asked the same question after graduation I said "Let's go! Let's do everything. I'm ready to stop being reclusive."
Seeing my service dog Nala make the transformation from wild to well-trained, from being extremely sociable to disciplined, was the most memorable part of the training classes. She is the thing about the process that really surprised me. After I left the service, I was always looking over my shoulder, and now, Nala does it for me, always there for me covering my back. I love being part of the Veteran community and enjoy the support of other Veterans and Bill. Being able to call Bill at any time, was very important. I was wary at first, not sure that this program was for me and it caused me to be slow to warm up to it. But over time the training changed my outlook and the way I go about things now. I felt totally supported by the other Veterans and by Bill and my every expectation was met.
Prior to training, I kept to myself, but now I relax and do things. I'm a different person and my family can see that. Before, crowds were a problem. But now, I go camping and boating, and Nala is with me watching me constantly, covering my back, keeping me calm. I was fortunate in that I did not take drugs, and now that Nala and I are a team I can do anything and everything, things I have not done in 10 years. Yes, the training is challenging but do it. It will change your life and for me it made my pain of my memories non-existent. But most important it will allow the fun of feeling normal while giving you something positive to think about.
Jerry & Nala
Because I hoped to gain a different outlook on life, I was anxious as I began the SD4V training program. Bill Brightman and Tim Jackson, with his own service dog Marla, explained the program, but I was nervous and doubted I could do it. When my dog Blue and I were first partnered, he was very independent and not affectionate. But with training, he has my back and is totally in tune with me, often putting his head in my lap to bring me back around when I'm hyper-focusing. I do not like people behind me and Blue senses when I'm not comfortable and moves to give me an excuse to get away. He's become a companion, eager to greet me and even sit in my lap. Our successful partnership has allowed me to reduce the amount of medications I take. In my opinion, the program is great but in its infancy. There are not many Veteran run organizations that focus on the Veteran's needs and lifestyle like SD4V does. The support structure is wonderful even extending beyond graduation as my family relocates to another state. Having the ability to meet and connect with other Veterans proved I was not alone. We all shared the same issues and although we were in different stages of training, we had the same experiences and related as comrades. We were the same. I'll admit there were many times I was ready to give up, but I would call Bill and he offered the encouragement and reassurance that I needed to continue. There were times we would just talk and he would give me advice how to handle particular situations. The support was always there and continues to be there for me. Now I feel accomplished in that I can do things I could not do before such as attend concerts and be in crowds. More importantly, now I can help my wife rather than rely on her to help me. So if you are thinking of signing up, do it! It's 100% worth the effort. It changed my way of life and way of thinking for the better.