Lady is trained to service ptsd
This is lady she is trained to service me in more than one way..she is highly intelligent very special to me and my family..she is a lifesaver.
Paris my pretty companion ADA#58721
Paris is a Maltese Shih Tzu mix female dog.
Paris is fixed and is such a great companion.
She is my baby girl and has helped me a lot in get through tough times.
RCMP Police Dogs
Alberta RCMP police dogs captured over 900 suspects in 2020, and were kept busy in part due to their work tracking rural property crime suspects.
RCMP said in 2020, police dog teams responded to 2,800 calls for service which included about 650 calls involving firearms or other weapons; 570 calls for violence-related offences; 450 calls for missing people; over 700 tracking assignments that resulted in 400 captures; and over 950 calls for property crime related offences.
When it comes to rural property crime, dog teams have a primary role in locating and apprehending suspects.
Alberta RCMP Police Dog Services is comprised of 18 teams strategically placed throughout the province. Teams are trained to track, as well as search for suspects or missing persons, crime scene evidence, firearms, controlled substances and explosives.
All Alberta RCMP Police Service Dogs are purebred German shepherds.
RCMP has been breeding German shepherds since 1999, and are able to produce enough puppies to satisfy their training needs so no dogs are need to be purchased.
Generally, one in three puppies will become an RCMP working dog, or breeding female.
RCMP said dog teams will continue to respond to calls over the holidays and thanks them for working tirelessly to keep Albertans safe in 2020.
Police Officer And His Dog
A police officer was forced to shoot his own dog after it turned on him while on duty.
Keith Larson, a veteran officer from Massachusetts, had to kill his German Shepherd, Nico after it attacked him at a crime scene.
He was responding to an early call on Tuesday where a suspect had fled the scene.
Police Chief Michael Botieri said in a statement that Officer Larson was preparing his service dog when the incident happened. It was shared on Twitter, with the Plymouth Police Department writing to followers: “Please keep K-9 Officer Keith Larson and Nico in your thoughts.”
The statement read: “After several attempts to disengage Nico, officer Larson was forced to utilise his service weapon. Unfortunately Nico died at the scene.
“Several officers as well as Brewster Ambulance personnel were dispatched to assist Officer Larson. Officer Larson was transported to South Shore Hospital to be treated for injuries to his hands.
“Officer Larson is a 17-year veteran of the Plymouth Police Department with an exemplary record. He has been assigned to the K9 Unit since March of 2017. “He has been assigned to Nico since August of 2018. Officer Larson received a bite to his hand while deploying Nico in April of 2020. Officer Larson and Nico were reassigned to the Sheriff’s Department K9 Academy and rectified for service in July of 2020.”
Speaking at a press conference, Botieri said: “The report we got from the sheriff’s department is that they were working together as a team and [had] no issues.
“It happened in less than 30-45 seconds, which is a long time that he had to go through that. I’m sure you realise it is difficult for as K-9 officer to dispatch their own dog like that.”
The chief said Officer Larson is being treated for injuries to his hands, adding that the force is hoping he makes a quick recovery.
Chief Botieri said: “It’s always difficult to see any of your officers injured. We feel bad about that.”
A witness at the scene told local news outlet WXTF that she had heard three gunshots, before seeing the officer struggling on the ground.
Witness Lori Medeiros said: “I didn’t hear any yelling or screaming. I just saw the officer down on the ground and I know he was obviously in distress.”
Pets Being Recognized
It has long been established that dogs are “man’s best friend,” but animals in general have been a part of human society since the dawn of humankind thousands of years ago. Domesticated animals helped our fledgling species in so many ways: cats reduced rodent populations allowing for safer food storage and disease prevention; dogs served as homestead guardians, hunting partners, and aides for herding livestock; falcons and other birds of prey provided a venue for hunting simply not capable by man in those nascent days.
As the centuries have passed, we have watched as those workhorse animals became more and more a luxury: people began to want pets less for their utilitarian value than to simply have them as household friends and compatriots. This is why the pet industry has emerged as strongly as it has over the past few decades.
Animals continue to serve us in many key functions, not the least of which falls under the two related—but markedly different—categories of companion animals and service animals. While these two might seem the same, the differences between those two categories cannot be understated, and a pet store owner would do well to not only know, but act upon those differences when engaging in their local market.
Service animals, as defined by the U.S. Department of Justice under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), are “individually trained to do work or perform tasks for people with disabilities.” Service animals undergo rigorous, continual training to perform their designated tasks. While a service animal might be agreeable and friendly, their sole function is to aid their owner in tasks that their disability might otherwise prevent. Some of these might include guide dogs for visually or auditory-impaired persons, alert/response dogs that alert an individual to an impending seizure or other autonomic response, or psychiatric service dogs, which provide assistance in ameliorating a cognitive or neurological disability in their handler, such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) or traumatic brain injury (TBI).
Because of their rigorous training and their necessity to their owner’s way of life, service animals are permitted access to areas that they may not otherwise be permitted into. This access only can be denied under one of two conditions: if the animal might contaminate a workspace (such as a clean room in a laboratory or a surgical arena), or if the animal cannot be controlled.
Currently, under the ADA, only dogs and miniature horses are recognized as service animals; all other animals fall under the more nebulous category of companion animals, which range vastly in terms of services provided. In legal terms, companion animals are not recognized by the ADA–as well-behaved and congenial as an animal may be, they hold no additional legal standards and businesses have no obligation to provide assistance or entry for an animal that does not fall into the stricter ‘service animal’ standing.
This is not to say that companion animals are ineffective—far from it! They simply do not hold the legal standing and recognition as a service animal. While individual states might have laws granting some degree of standing to a “therapy animal” or a “companion animal,” these laws vary from state to state—be sure to find out how your state views these animals.
Unfortunately, because of the nebulous nature of the laws governing service animals and a general lack of information on the part of the general public, a tendency towards abuse has emerged in terms of individuals referring to their pets as service animals. Doing so is actively detrimental towards service animals and their beneficiaries and, as responsible custodians of the pet industry, the onus falls on us to ensure that the pets we sell are not being used as tools of manipulation. As with most things in the pet trade, know your state and local laws, and be sure to inform your customers, especially if there is talk of using a new pet as a service animal.
For more information on the differences between service animals and companion animals, as well as for summaries of how the law interacts with these sorts of animals, be sure to check the ADA’s online brief. . In addition, The Independence Center offers a number of resources on service and companion animals at their website. While some of their information is local to Colorado, much of it is applicable to states across the country. And, if you’re interested in seeing the good done by service animals, check out Pets for Patriots, which compiles a number of resources on service animals in the military.
ECAD, Educated Canines Assisting with Disabilities held two team training sessions in October and December, placing five service dogs and two facility dogs in new homes.
The sessions were unusual, because the five service dogs placed were successor dogs – five amazing canines stepping into the paw prints of the five amazing service dogs who have died during the past 12 months.
“It is always a sad event when a beloved canine companion passes away. When a service dog leaves its person, the effect can be devastating to the person, and often to the entire family in life altering ways,” said Lu Picard, ECAD co-founder and director of programs.
“It’s like, in relatable terms, to being told you no longer have a divers’ license. Remember the sense of freedom you felt when you got your first drivers’ license – with it you were could hit the road, go new places, see new things. You were free,” Picard continued. “For a person who has had the assistance of a service dog for a number of years it is the same: they are grounded, with little freedom or help in their daily life, the routine their trained canine allowed them to have.”
Picard also said that, when pairing a successor dog with a client, she makes an effort to reduce the “comparison” factor. While this is natural, Picard wants the clients to realize that the new service dog, while having the same skills, may have different personalities from the former. Also, the successor service dog will be close to two years old, where the client will have become accustomed to an older helper.
The clients receiving Successor service dogs in December represent a variety of disabilities and needs.
Kevin Conlon, of Queensbury, NY, is a veteran who served two tours of duty in Iraq, and a graduate of ECAD’s Project HEAL Program.
Anthony Turturro, of Brooklyn, was a teenager riding a bike when a speeding car hit him, throwing Anthony up in the air, effectively ending forever Anthony’s life as he knew it. As a result of this tragedy, Turturro suffers from TBI and physical injuries that affect his mobility and balance. Turturro also lost the ability to speak clearly.
Carolyn Sires of Branford and West Haven and her first ECAD Canine, Blue, were known throughout the state for their advocacy work on behalf of veterans. service dog Victory will continue to work alongside Sires in this capacity.
October Team Training graduates were Zoraya Irizarry and service dog Zen of Hartford and Greg Demeule and service dog Advocate of Manchester, NH.
Advocate is Demeule’s third ECAD service dog. Born with cerebral palsy, Demeule credits Ali, his first, with getting him out of his wheelchair and walking with just a cane. His second, Sprinkles, helped him daily when they went off to college. Now Advocate will help him climb the stairs to his apartment where he lives and works as an academic advisor for on-line students at Southern New Hampshire University. Demeule credits his service dogs with helping him to overcome the stereotypical impression most have of people with his condition.
Irizarry has issues that cause crippling anxiety and panic attacks that can lead to disassociation. With service dog Zen she will be able to lead a normal life on her terms, just as she did with Mickey, who helped her each and every day. In an interesting twist, service dog Mickey was paired with Irizarry’s daughter, Karla, when Karla was 13 and dealing with multiple mood disorders. Within a short time, Karla had become an honor student and a Special Olympics star. As her need for Mickey lessened, her mother’s need increased. Mickey worked miracles for both. service dog Zen has jumped right into Mickey’s giant paw prints, according to Irizarry.
In October, facility dog Disney was placed with handlers from the Putnam/Northern Westchester BOCES in Yorktown Heights, NY, where he will help students, particularly those with special needs. In December, facility dog Peace was placed with handlers from the Child Abuse Prevention Center in Poughkeepsie, NY. Peace will comfort and help children who have been traumatized and/or abused.
The Bear Heart ❤
My Amazing companion that keeps me strong and going!
Service Animals On Planes
Those days of taking peacocks and pot-belly pigs as service animals on airplanes are over according to the Department of Transportation.
Tony Stokes trains dogs everyday, one wagging tail at a time. They sit, jump and come.
“Dogs can be very easy to train because they are constantly seeking reward, just like we are,” said Tony Stokes, Training Director, Lead Your K9.
This is one of the reasons why the Department of Transportation released this 122 page document, highlighting its final rules on what they consider a service animal.
It says: “this final rules defines a service animal as a dog, regardless of breed or type, that is individually trained to do work of perform tasks for the benefit of a qualified individual with a disability.”
“They can be comforting, they can be a nice companion, they can be very nice and enjoyable for outdoor activities and they can also be good family pets,” said Stokes.
He says at the end of the day, they are called man’s best friend for a reason.
There is a loophole though. The new ruling states airlines can recognize emotional support animals as pets and they can even put a limit on service animals.
K9 Officer Passes Away
A K-9 officer with the City of Lenoir Police Department passed away Tuesday after a battle with cancer.
Police K-9 Axel served the department and City for six years, “providing his handler and family six years of love and companionship.”
The department put out a release about Axel’s passing and years of service on Wednesday. You can read that below:
Axel was born June 30, 2013, in the Czech Republic and was purchased by the City of Lenoir Police Department in August 2014. Sgt. Zachery Poythress trained Axel from start to finish while the sergeant earned certification as a Comprehensive Police Service Dog Trainer and Police Service Dog Team Instructor. Axel certified in October 2014 and became the City’s first Police K9 to be dual certified by two separate associations.
In early November this year, Sgt. Poythress received news that Axel was diagnosed with advanced hemangiosarcoma. Axel did not suffer, but the news was hard on the Poythress family.
“Some people will say that it is just a dog, but they overlook the impact these dogs have on people’s lives,” Sgt. Poythress said. “Axel has proven his dedication and love for the people of the Police Department and the city. I would like to express my deepest gratitude for the support of Lenoir Police Department command staff, everyone at the Police Department, and for all the messages and support we have received during this time.”
Axel started working for the Police Department in October 2014. During his six years of service, he completed more than 1,000 utilizations including narcotics sniffs, tracks, building searches, article searches, area searches, perimeter security, demonstrations, and training. He was responsible for the seizure of $943,243 worth of narcotics and $82,242 of money, which included the largest seizure of LSD in the history of the department and the largest or second largest seizure of heroin/fentanyl.
Axel completed 52 tracks with 16 finds during his service. Tracks included searching for suspects, missing persons, and lost children. His find percentage of 31% is far greater than the national average of 10 to 12%. Axel participated in many demonstrations at schools, day cares, churches, and civic groups. He could easily switch from working to playing with children, and he loved it. In addition to serving the City of Lenoir Police Department, Axel assisted other agencies 127 times including the Caldwell County Sheriff’s Office, Hudson Police Department, Granite Falls Police Department, Hickory Police Department, Valdese Police Department, Burke County Sheriff’s Office, NC Highway Patrol, NC State Bureau of Investigation, US Marshals, and the US Department of Homeland Security.
Sgt. Poythress said that in addition to all of Axel’s documented achievements, there is one success that is impossible to measure – the number of times Axel saved lives.
“We could fill up pages with his stats, but the stats we will never know are the countless times he saved my life, another officer’s life, or a citizen’s life by doing his job or by nothing more than his presence,” Sgt. Poythress said. “It will never be known the amount of times someone’s mind was changed or a situation was deescalated just by Axel being there.”
The City of Lenoir extends sympathies and condolences to Sgt. Poythress, his family, and the Police Department on the loss of Axel. He will be missed. The City also thanks Dr. Rebecca Whisnant at Caldwell Animal Hospital for treating Axel these past two months.
Service Dogs Helping Out
Four years ago, my daughter developed a rare condition known as autoimmune encephalitis, or “AE” for short. Any time she gets sick, rather than making antibodies that fight infection, her body makes antibodies that attack her brain. Doctors have described it as “her brain on fire.” It’s as cruel and debilitating as it sounds. She’s seized to the point of lifelessness more times than I can count, is reliant on a feeding tube for nutrition and frequently finds herself unable to walk or talk. Yet, still she smiles. Her condition doesn’t have a cure, but its symptoms are controlled with fistfuls of pills, and regular chemo and blood product infusions. Time and time again I’ve pleaded with the universe for a break. I’ve begged and bartered with every higher power you can name. But it was in vain. I couldn’t change what her body was doing. Then, in December of 2018 I got an email that two donors were willing to pay the balance of a service dog for her in full. They gave her the news Christmas morning and from that day forward I saw life in her eyes.
In early 2019, Gracie was presented with profiles of two pups. And after reviewing both with tears in her eyes, she declared of one, “that’s my Auggie.” And from that moment forward their hearts belonged to one another. Auggie had a lot to learn before she could come home. It wasn’t just commands like “sit and stay,” or her “service task” of seizure alert, but also how to behave in public. There are high expectations on a dog who accompanies their person everywhere, and it’s time consuming to teach them. Gracie kept in touch with Auggie through FaceTime, care packages, and letters, and the two met for the first time a year later, in January. Their bond was instant. Auggie knew Gracie was her girl, and Gracie knew Auggie was the friend she’d waited forever for. They had just 24 hours together, but you would have thought they shared a lifetime. Auggie looked at Gracie with stars in her eyes, and Gracie at Auggie as if she’d hung the moon. Auggie dutifully alerted to seizures, Gracie was generous with the snuggles and while the world spun around them, they were only in tune to each other. The goodbye at the end of their visit was hard but the hope we both walked away with having seen and experienced their connection made it worth it.
In spring, Gracie’s health crashed. At 13 years old she was just 57 pounds. Her heart rate was low and her liver and thyroid function below expectation. Her body was tired, and seemingly trying to give up. A feeding tube went in. Life was sustained, but its quality was poor. Gracie had fought long and hard, and simply had no more to give. The outlook was bleak. Then, Auggie came home. Auggie brought joy, inspiration and purpose. She brought out the best in Gracie, just by being near her. Gracie fought hard to speak clearly so Auggie could understand her. But when she couldn’t, Auggie never strayed from task. For her girl she’d do anything. When Gracie’s muscles hurt, she didn’t resign herself to a wheelchair. She used it when she needed to and doubled down on physical therapy to strengthen them again, knowing her girl needed her. She cried with pain as she stood up to play fetch, but she pushed through it, with renewed purpose. And with that purpose every day she grew a little stronger.
Her seizures didn’t stop, but they became less debilitating. Most times Auggie can tell her before they occur, allowing her to get to a safe space, minimizing the ways they hurt her. When they’re triggered and Auggie can’t alert before, she is able to get someone who can help. This shortens the duration of the seizures and has done wonders for recovery. But, probably the most amazing thing in this regard is that Auggie’s training has changed Gracie’s comfort level, giving her confidence to do more things independently.
Today Gracie is twice the size she was in March. Her body and mind are stronger, and her will dramatically different. Auggie has given her a second chance at life. Together they set goals that she once saw as unattainable, and collectively they crush them. Gracie, a girl who was once told she would never read again, is now an honor roll student and she and Auggie are co-owners of an Etsy shop, and budding philanthropists with their profits.
Auggie hasn’t given Gracie forever, but she’s made the forever she has worthwhile.
New Service Dogs
Newmarket resident Amanda Robar has had epilepsy her whole life and has relied on the assistance of her service dog when she goes about her daily life outside of her home. Now she needs a new one and has turned to the community to help cover the considerable training cost.
Local residents and businesses have helped raise more than $11,000 for her new puppy’s training at a time when normal fundraising activities such as golf tournaments and other events are impossible due to the pandemic.
“The community support has been amazing so far. Having a service dog gives me the confidence to go out on my own into the community, so having the community’s help makes me so grateful because I couldn’t do this without it,” said Robar.
Robar has had two service dogs so far. With her current one, a golden retriever named Kramer, now eight years old, it is time to start training her replacement, a process that takes roughly two years.
With the $11,000 she has received so far from a crowdfunding campaign and other donations, she has found a golden retriever puppy named Cable currently undergoing service dog training. But she expects that the total cost of Cable’s training will be closer to $36,000.
Each animal requires special training to meet her specific symptoms and disabilities, including arthritis, autoimmune disorders, vision impairment, and depression.
“If you are a cookie-cutter model, the dog can be free. But if you are someone like me with multiple disabilities and non-cookie-cutter model epilepsy, it is not,” she said.
Some of the behaviours she needs Cable to be taught is to lick her hand to bring her out of a seizure and, if they persist, to help Robar lie down and use the dog’s head and paw to keep her from moving.
Robar also has seizures that can leave her disoriented and cause her to wander. Cable will be trained to not allow her to cross a street without first being given a signal to tell him it’s OK. The dog will also be able to guide her home from wherever they are and find her a place to sit if she has had multiple seizures.
The dog will also be trained to push an emergency button that Robar’s brother designed that will automatically call her family if she has a major seizure that leaves her incapacitated.
Cable is a few months into his training, and Robar expects she will be able to take him home when he is 18 months old. In the meantime, she has set up a blog and a Facebook page to keep her supporters informed of how everything is going.
RCMP Police Dog
Alberta RCMP Police Dog Services (PDS) had an incredibly busy 2020. Although many Albertans spent a majority of their 2020 experiencing some stage of lockdown due to the COVID-19 pandemic there was no shortage of work for Alberta’s Police Dog Service teams.
In 2020 PDS responded to 2,800 calls for service and captured over 900 criminals. The PDS held a key role in rural property crime initiatives this year, and contribute this to part of the reason they were so busy.
PDS teams are used in a primary role in locating and apprehending rural property crime suspects.
The Alberta RCMP PDS is made up of 18 teams throughout the province. These teams are trained to track and search for suspects, missing persons, crime scene evidence, firearms, and controlled substances or explosives.
Of the 2,800 calls PDS responded to in 2020:
Approximately 650 involved firearms or other weapons;
570 involved violence-related offences;
450 calls were for missing people;
Over 950 calls were for property crime related offences;
And PDS were deployed in a tracking profile over 700 times, which resulted in 400 captures.
All Alberta RCMP Police Service Dogs are purebred German Shepherds. The RCMP has been breeding German Shepherds since 1999 and through this are able to provide enough puppies to satisfy the RCMP’s training needs and no dogs are purchased for training.
On average, one in three puppies will become an RCMP working dog or breeding female.
The RCMP says their dog teams will continue to respond to calls over the holidays and thanks their PDS teams for working tirelessly to keep Albertans safe in 2020.
Beautifully made pure heart through and theough
i remeber this day, it was bath day and she loves the process of drying off and then she zooms around happily chases her ball a bit and comes over for loves she is so sweet and very careful around the kids. She helps know when someone’s at my door and when my son has chest pains, don’t know what I’d do without her. She very protective.
Beautifully made pure heart through and theough
i remeber this day, it was bath day and she loves the process of drying off and then she zooms around happily chases her ball a bit and comes over for loves she is so sweet and very careful around the kids. She helps know when someone’s at my door and when my son has chest pains, don’t know what I’d do without her. She very protective.
Look at her Bright beautiful smile
She’s a bright intelligent loving and caring supportive dog and she loves lots of hugs and kisses and she is not just a dog she is everyone’s comfort when you’re sad when you’re happy she brightens up all the way
K9s For Warriors
K9s For Warriors, whose mission is to serve disabled veterans, held an unveiling ceremony Monday revealing the new name of the organization’s main campus.
In a ceremony, a new sign was revealed reading “The Shari Duval K9s For Warriors National Headquarters” replacing the old campus name “Camp K9” as the official title of the organization’s main campus.
Staff, volunteers, and dogs gathered out front to celebrate Shari Duval, the woman they call Mom.
“Our team mission is the warriors,” Duval said. “Simple. Pure. Nothing else.”
Shari Duval founded K9s For Warriors in 2011 to provide service canines to veterans suffering from PTSD, traumatic brain injury and/or military sexual trauma as a result of post-9/11 service. Shari was inspired to start the organization by her son, Brett Simon, a contractor who returned from two tours in Iraq suffering from severe post-traumatic stress.
“Without her inspiration and commitment none of this would have been possible,” said Rory Diamond, CEO of K9s For Warriors. “Her commitment to our veteran population paired with her understanding of the healing power of the companionship and love of a dog laid the foundation of what is now the nation’s largest provider of Service Dogs for disabled American veterans…”
The new sign reading “The Shari Duval K9s For Warriors National Headquarters” will greet all visitors as they arrive at the K9s For Warriors main campus.
Man’s Best Friend
In this story, the term “man’s best friend” takes on a whole new meaning.
It’s a story about two very special pals, determined to stay with each other even if it means overseas flights, and one of them, going from wild and free to a new home that’s much more tame.
This is Sunny and Cameron Marin last March in Iraq, and this is them in Pittsfield, New Hampshire present day.
Their journey to the Granite State is a long one. They first met while Cameron was stationed in Iraq with the New Hampshire Army National Guard.
“There was rough times, there’s times that weren’t great, but it’s all just part of it,” said Cameron. There’s little doubt Sunny brightened his days.
Cameron says stray dogs were frequently around their work, but most of them skittish, unlike Sunny.
“He just comes sprinting up to me and just immediately lets me start petting him, no questions asked, didn’t hesitate at all. Just super friendly,” said Cameron.
It wasn’t long before Cameron was giving Sunny treats.
They became close enough that Cameron reached out to SPCA International. They started the process of getting Sunny back to the Granite State.
But COVID-19 shutdowns made it tough. Sunny finally landed in the states in August.
“Seeing that plane touch down and come down the runway was amazing, and you finally feel like you can exhale at that moment,” said Meredith Ayan, SPCA International.
Sunny made it home before Cameron and when they reunited, it didn’t take Sunny long to recognize his old friend.
Carol Lansford was in her final semester at Valdosta State University in 2012, “pretending to pay attention in class,” when a Facebook post jumped out at her. Her high school buddy Justin had been wounded in Afghanistan. The details would dribble out in excruciating increments.
She was a psychology major, with designs on exploring animal behavior. Her internships put her in close contact with rehabbing dolphins at Dolphin Encounters in The Bahamas, and at Zoo Atlanta. But what happened after that jarring news eight Aprils ago put her on a path she could never have planned.
Today, Lansford is the executive director of a small nonprofit called Valor Service Dogs. Located in an 1800-foot facility in Tampa, VSD embodies the surge of interest in the utility of canine behavioral science, in which dogs can be trained for missions as diverse as mobility assistance, seizure response, autism mitigation, and emotional support.
Thanks to some intimate personal stakes, Lansford’s dogs are schooled in two narrowly focused disciplines – mobility and post-traumatic stress response, tailored exclusively to military veterans and first-responders.
She and Justin grew up outside Atlanta and had known each other since their teens. They drifted apart after school – she went to college, he joined the Army – but they reconnected after Justin returned home following his tour of Iraq in 2011. The relationship had growth potential, but he would once again deploy overseas with the 82nd Airborne Division.
The Facebook news was a bolt from the blue. It was an announcement from Justin’s father. There was a game-changer in Gazni Province on April 21, 2012.
Responding to an ambush by Taliban insurgents, Justin’s armored vehicle – he was a gunner – struck a 120-pound roadside bomb that tossed him from his mount. When he came to, Justin was lying beneath the burning remains of the truck, the boot that contained his left foot lying next to his head.
Upon returning to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, young Staff Sergeant Lansford and Carol stayed in touch. But it wasn’t until October 2012, in a top-secret plot hatched by Justin and one of Carol’s best friends, that they saw each other again. Expected to be greeted at the airport by an old college roommate, Carol found Justin waiting for her outside security.
“Oh, I’m pretty sure I cried, I don’t even remember,” Carol recalls. “Justin had so many injuries, but he was so positive, it was easy for me to be positive.”
Those wounds would include a broken back and a ruptured spleen. Justin would require multiple surgeries and three years of physical therapy at Walter Reed. Carol would move to the Washington, D.C., area. With a dog named Gabe serving as Best Man, they married in 2015 in a ceremony that rated coverage on “Good Morning America.”
Justin met Gabe, a golden retriever, during his long recovery, in 2013. And it became obvious pretty quickly why Justin needed a service dog.
“Washington is an old city,” he says, “with a lot of staircases without handrails and old buildings that aren’t up to speed, ADA-wise. Some haven’t been retrofitted, some are historical buildings and are exempt. So the ability to walk through a door and get through an entire day without Gabe is very difficult.”
Carol noticed Walter Reed was full of veterans and service dogs. She made a few inquiries and learned most of the animals were trained by a government partner affiliated with Assistance Dogs International (ADI), which sets rigorous gold standard goals for certified trainers and dogs. Carol completed the program and went on to become an instructor herself.
The Lansfords moved to Florida five years ago. Justin graduated from the University of South Florida with a degree in International Studies. Lately, he’s studying medicine with designs on emergency medicine.
“I guess you could say I just had a change of heart,” he says. “I just like helping folks, that’s always been my M.O. Hopefully, I’ll get to work in an emergency room. Maybe someday I’ll even be working on helicopters.”
Carol, meanwhile, decided to start her own service-dog training facility catering to Americans on the front lines of conflict, abroad and at home.
“I looked at a lot of service dog organizations but I didn’t feel like they were a good fit for me. They weren’t using the ADI standards I was used to,” she says. “I mean, some of them were graduating dogs that shouldn’t have graduated, and I think, as a nonprofit, it’s important how you spend your donor money.”
Founded in 1986, ADI is an international network of trainers and providers with standardized rules for developing a range of canine skill sets. It counts hundreds of members representing 23 countries in North America and Europe, including Australia and New Zealand.
Carol’s Valor Service Dogs is nine months away from applying for ADI certification. With up to two years invested in raising and training specialized dogs, her program didn’t start producing results until 2017. Since then, she says 21 dogs have been matched with qualified owners, with only two mismatches.
“Those are dogs that didn’t quite make the cut for service dogs, meaning they can’t have public access for behavioral reasons,” she says. “For example, one dog was so afraid of elevators and escalators we couldn’t get her approved for public access because those are things you run into every day. But she was fully trained in commands and behaviors, so we put her with a retired service member who needed the companionship but not necessarily a full service dog.”
To become ADI approved, service dog groups are required to have placed at least five dogs with recipients, each with a year’s worth of successful working relationships. VSD became eligible to apply for membership a little more than a year ago and is now in its “candidacy” phase.
Producing successful dogs – in this case, golden retrievers and labs – requires a deep bank account. Each one represents a time investment of 18 months to two years, plus an average of $15,000 to $18,000 in maintenance and training. How long each dog can work varies with their assignment.
“Service dogs are expensive, so you want to maximize the work you get out of them by checking their lineage for things like joint problems or cancer,” says Justin, whose prosthetic leg sometimes requires a steadying assist from Gabe. “If you’re using them as a handrail or you’re putting a lot of weight on them, if they’re pulling a wheelchair, obviously they’re not gonna last that long. And you’re going to need a bigger dog for that.
“Gabe will be 10 years old on April 28. But what he’s meant to me is not just the freedom to get around, but I’ve got a friend with me all day, morning and night. Having somebody without you throughout the day is about emotional independence, too.”
Justin estimates Gabe will provide another two years of service before retirement into house-dog status.
In the meantime, Carol keeps VSD afloat with the help of mostly donors, plus a handful of grants and a board of directors that resembles an all-star cast. It includes clinical social worker Debra Isenstein, who worked with transitioning veterans at Walter Reed, entrepreneur Philip Tulkoff, and Pennsylvania State Trooper Alex Douglass.
Tulkoff, President of Tulkoff Food Products, lost a cousin to a roadside bomb in Afghanistan in 2012. Douglass was critically injured in 2014 when a sniper attacked the station and killed a fellow officer. Douglass lost his right leg below the knee as a result of his bullet wound, and was the first to receive a service dog from VSD.
Carol’s long-term goal is to move out of the current facility’s rental space and purchase a more expansive locale with the ability to train more dogs. VSD has a “satellite” operation in Georgia. But finding the right mix of resources will require finesse to obtain and maintain that crucial ADI rating.
“Yes, it costs a little money to be a member, but honestly, it’s just a huge undertaking to get there, with all the records you have to supply, and the visits they make to your facility to meet the dogs,” she says. “Right now, we have a high success rate with a low fail-out rate. We want to help more people than we are now, but we also want to stay small enough to where our success ratio stays high and the recipients know they’re getting great dogs.”
The Lansfords have high hopes for 2021. They’re expecting their first child in March.
Service Dog Joins Team
While saving lives, paramedics and EMTs often find themselves providing emotional support to people on their worst days. So when the job is done and they’ve returned to their stations, they may need some comfort as well.
Enter Indie: a smart and cuddly St. Bernard who recently joined East Baton Rouge Emergency Medical Services to provide relief for paramedics in distress after hard calls. She is a nationally registered ADA service dog and PTSD dog, her handler said.
“A lot of times we don’t want anybody to see our weaknesses because we’ve got to remain strong,” said Leah Constantino, one of Indie’s handlers. “With her, you can just be sad, and she’s gonna try to make you feel better.”
Constantino began ruminating on the need for an EMS emotional support dog after the tumultuous year of 2016, which saw the police shooting of Alton Sterling, widespread civil unrest in response, a deadly police ambush and a rare flood event that crippled the city.
Paramedics were at the forefront of each disaster, and some were badly traumatized by the experiences.
Constantino, who has been with EMS for 26 years, said paramedics are accustomed to putting their mental health on the back burner because they have to focus on their jobs. Not coping can manifest in a number of ways, such as developing depression and anxiety.
“It’s time that we take care of ourselves so we can take better care of other people,” she said.
Indie began on a trial basis in early summer for a little more than a month.
“The stars aligned, I don’t know,” Constantino said. “The difference was remarkable in a couple of days.”
She is now a uniformed officer with EMS. Her call number is Indie 500.
Dogs are great companions for people struggling with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, according to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. A recent study by Purdue University’s College of Veterinary Medicine also showed that service dogs helped to “disrupt episodes of anxiety.”
Constantino said Indie takes the emotions paramedics have pushed aside or tamped down and allows them to process.
“We will compartmentalize our emotions on tragic events and do what we’re trained to do, do what’s necessary, and generally it hits us after the call,” she said.
Indie, who Constantino characterizes as smart and caring, will “almost immediately” approach the person who seems to be in the most distress after a bad call. She follows orders quickly, listening to her handlers with rapt attention and focus. Average training for a dog like Indie takes a year, Constantino said.
Ready to respond to paramedics who need comfort during debriefing sessions, Indie lives at EMS headquarters. She has set hours where she needs exercise and sleep, although these are adjusted when she is needed to step in for a paramedic in need — as long as those lost hours are made up later. Her wellbeing is critical, Constantino said.
Indie doesn’t go on calls, but she responds after calls. And she goes on social visits to other stations to boost paramedic morale.
After a recent traumatic call, Indie stepped up to help a paramedic struggling to process the night’s events.
It was late, and Indie was curled up on the floor. The paramedic joined her, lying down and closing her eyes beside the dog.
At some point, the paramedic grew emotional. As if sensing her sadness, Indie immediately picked her head up and rested it on the paramedic’s shoulder.
“She’s gonna love you,” Constantino said. “It’s unconditional love, non-judgmental love.”
Wolf Mascot In Training
Mark and Carol Rickman ran across the frozen turf at the Neta and Eddie DeRose ThunderBowl for the first time with a brand new four-legged member of the Pack family.
“Roch” — a 1-year-old Siberian husky, malamute, boxer and Belgian Malinois mix — scampered with purpose from the west sideline, stopping at the Colorado State University Pueblo logo at the 50-yard line.
He didn’t mark his territory, but he seemed to know he was at home.
“He says, ‘I like this,’ ” Carol Rickman said as the pup pulled her across the field like a receiver running a quick out route.
“All this for me?,” her husband said, mimicking Roch as the pup stood tall staring at the south end zone.
“This is the first time he’s seen the field. He seems to like it,” Carol Rickman added.
Roch is the university’s new mascot in training.
The Rickmans and the university mourned the loss of beloved ThunderWolves mascot, Tundra, on March 12. Tundra was a greyhound and husky mix, but if you ask any CSU Pueblo alum, faculty, staff, student or community member, she was a full-blooded ThunderWolf. The Rickmans were known as Team Tundra on the CSU Pueblo campus and fondly called “Tundra’s parents.” Tundra was a rescue dog the Rickmans adopted from Colorado Springs All Breed Rescue in 2006.
Tundra became CSU Pueblo’s mascot in 2009 and epitomized the legendary animal which was envisioned in CSU Pueblo’s legend of a ThunderWolf, “a regal and majestic animal (that) evolved into the wisest and strongest of all.”
“She kind of took over campus. We went to all of the sporting events and all the events on campus. She was a therapy dog as well,” Carol Rickman said. “We still miss her dearly and her spirit will always be here.”
Tundra, who never missed a home football game during her tenure with the ThunderWolves, now has a little brother who will take on her duties.
Roch, pronounced rock, is in training.
“We thought that if another dog comes into our lives that we think would work well for this, we would love to do it again in her (Tundra’s) honor. So Roch was that dog,” Carol Rickman said.
She said Roch has a similar situation to Tundra in that he also is a rescue dog.
“He came from a place with really bad living conditions,” Carol Rickman said. “People were raising dogs to look like wolves, huskies, you know, that kind of thing. And so he actually escaped from that place by hopping a fence.”
Roch ended up in a shelter in Las Vegas, New Mexico. He later was placed in a foster home.
Like Tundra, Roch is a gentle animal — something Carol Rickman said is extremely important.
“He is very used to people,” she said.
Roch has been enrolled in classes in Colorado Springs to get his “Canine Good Citizen” certificate as well as his therapy dog certificate.
Roch is named after the patron saint of dogs and dog-lovers; bachelors; and the falsely accused.
“We thought that could come in handy to our players in case the refs decide to throw a few penalties their way that they shouldn’t have,” Carol Rickman said with a laugh.
“It will be fun. There’s a lot of hashtags we can come up with for his name: #RochStar, #MyPackRochs and #RochSolid. He can fit right in to all of that.”
The Rickmans said Roch is coming in to the fray at the right time.
Carol Rickman said 2020 has been a tough year, especially for CSU Pueblo with the loss of Tundra and so many other key figures in the Pack family.
“It’s been such a hard year and to end it with something kind of positive, and an excitement — I think it’s really important,” she said.
“It’s nice to have some good news for a change and I think it’s huge for the university. I really do,” Mark Rickman said.
Roch was officially introduced on Tundra’s Facebook Page, and Carol Rickman said the announcement came with several positive comments.
Tundra gained national attention during the CSU Pueblo football team’s playoff run in 2014, when #FreeTundra became a trending hashtag due to the NCAA regulations restricting live mascots on the field during post-season competition. She was, however, known to watch many Pack athletics events via livestream when unable to join team on the road.
Tundra’s ability to howl on command with the ThunderWolf hand signal brought joy to many.
“We are working on that with Roch,” Carol Rickman said. “He howls a little bit as we leave, but we will try to work on encouraging that.”