Buddy’s story – A service dog’s journey

Buddy was rescued by our organization in the summer of 2020 from a deplorable backyard situation where his only source of water was a small, algae-filled Halloween candy bucket. His family obtained him as an adorable puppy, but he was quickly designated to life in a backyard.

Sadly, Buddy was extremely isolated from other people and dogs during the first 13 months of his life which severely limited his ability to confidently develop into a well socialized and loving companion. He was sweet, endearing and eager for attention during our evaluation, thus we quickly made arrangements to transfer ownership to our organization.

Thank you Petco Store Teams for raising funds to help our Advanced Training programs thrive! We are thrilled to be recognized by the @PetcoLove for our work with service and working animals. #PetcoLovePartner #HelpingHeroes

Thanks to the amazing efforts of our training staff and service dog trainer, Buddy has gone through an amazing transformation during the past 9 months! (Buddy was not able to participate in one of our training programs at a local correctional institution as all programs have been shut down since March 2020 due to the COVID pandemic.)

Initially, Buddy was highly suspicious and agitated around other dogs while walking on a leash. He was not aggressive, but over stimulated due to lack of exposure and socialization as a puppy and young dog. He didn’t know how to meet or interact with other dogs which we resolved through months of monitored dog/dog interactions, socialization, and play dates.

With maturity and ongoing training, Buddy gained a new-found confidence and thoroughly enjoyed engaging with other dogs and people. People were always asking to pet Buddy, during his training sessions, because of his amazing smile and beautiful retriever appearance. Buddy quickly adapted to a new lifestyle and started showing signs that he may be ready for more than just walks in the park.

Since inception, we have been actively identifying and training rescue dogs for service work and recently, with the generous assistance of the William A. Schampeau Charitable Trust, have been training service dogs for disabled veterans. It costs >$20,000 for the training and placement costs associated with finding the perfect match for each client and dog.

Once the dog is ready for placement, we embark on a two-week “Partnership Training Program” with the dog and his intended working partner. This program is not for the faint of heart, as we tell clients “we are about to give you the keys to a Ferrari, but you don’t yet have your driver’s license.” During our 2 weeks together, we methodically and lovingly transition the handling skills to our client so they can become comfortable and confident working in public places with their new canine BFF.

This two-week process is life changing for both the dog and our client. We couldn’t be more excited to announce that we have identified the perfect working partner for Buddy and both of them will be start our “Partnership Training Program” in the coming weeks.

Such placements need careful considerations and we thoroughly vet all applicants and make sure that the right animal gets paired with the right person. In Buddy’s case, this is going to be Harry. Harry lives with his wife Carol here in Orange County. He is a Vietnam Veteran and Purple Heart recipient who has struggled with PTSD and physical challenges since that time. After his honorable discharge from the Marines, he went on to have a career in law enforcement, first with the NYPD and later with the LAPD.

During their initial “meet and greet,” Buddy was invited to spend a few days at Harry’s home. “I am truly speechless & my heart is overflowing. I have NEVER seen Harry so peaceful & content.” shared Carol.

After these successful first few days, the commitment was made to move forward. That way we could personalize Buddy’s service training to coincide Harry’s individual needs. Anna, our certified service dog trainer, will begin partnership training in the next few weeks as Harry and his family make adjustments to get involved in the work.

We couldn’t be more excited for the two of them. Watch this space for updates!


UPDATE (2021 Autumn)

The Partnership Training Program is a very important, but extremely challenging part our placement process.  Every dog and every client is different which validates the need to customize our program as we know that “one size does not fill all.”

After a busy summer of partnership training Harry was planning an out of state move and he still wasn’t ready for the Public Access Test. This type of training requires a great deal of commitment and very hard work and high anxiety levels or PTSD can  sometimes make it difficult for our clients to keep up.

This is quite typical: the disability that warrants the need for a service dog can be the main obstacle. In any case, this pair worked through these challenges under the patient, expert guidance of our trainers.

Good news!!

Buddy and Harry are now settled in their new home and are actively involved in the local VA organization and they have recently been invited to visit children in a local hospice. That request speaks volumes for their relationship and Buddy’s gentle nature in public!!!  What a wonderful way for Buddy to share his calming and gentle nature with very special people.

Buddy’s journey has been supported by our fantastic supporters and Petco Love. Thank you Petco Store Teams for raising funds to help our Advanced Training programs thrive! We are thrilled to be recognized by @PetcoLove (formerly Petco Foundation) for our work with service and working animals. #PetcoLovePartner #HelpingHeroes

Update – 2022

Look at Buddy! USMC Ball celebrating the Marine Corps’ 247th Birthday. Buddy was Harry’s companion and Harry’s wife, Carol, was lucky enough to tag along with her loved ones. #USMC247 #USMCBirthday for Installation 186 Las Vegas and Pahrump. Semper Fi!