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What Freedom Means

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Candy, or Candido, grew up near Houston, Texas and always intended to be a professional baseball player. As a kid, he learned how to track animals and shoot, and when he ended up in the Army in Viet Nam in 1969, these skills helped him.

“I trained at Fort Lewis in Washington State,” Candy says, “and served between 1968 – 1970 as a Specialist 4. I basically died there, all of us did. I’m not really allowed to talk about what
we did there, but we became the walking dead even though we had to pretend we were brave
and fine.”

Years after Candy returned to the States, he began seeing a psychiatrist, but for a long time the federal government did not recognize post-traumatic stress as a disability. One doctor thought he would benefit from a service dog, and helped him apply to Custom Canines.

Candy found Cherie, the Standard Poodle puppy. “We had an immediate bond,” he says. “She reads my mind and I’m sure she’s trying to talk to me.” Cherie wakes Candy up when he has nightmares and won’t leave his side until he’s back to normal. She keeps him from losing his temper, and when things escalate, she puts herself between Candy and danger. She even begins to gently push him away from the difficulty.

Candy believes that his dog blesses him and gives him a reason to live. “I’m not the first or last person to be in this mess, but my job is to get through this tunnel, to be strong and be happy, and live in this beautiful world. That’s where the dog helps, because Cherie gives me peace of mind and unconditional love.”


“The best part of Cherie’s personality is that she’s really sweet. And intelligent. When she looks at you with those eyes, she can see your soul. I used to be nervous and agitated all the time, but Cherie has helped me be calm.”


Custom Canines Service Dog Academy has trained canine partners for US military veterans and First Responders for over 10 years, enabling these men and women to feel safer, to escape isolation, and to lead more independent lives.

We need your continued support to continue our support for them! Any gift, however small or large, is deeply appreciated by our clients, by our volunteers, and by our organization. Please will you click the DONATE button below and make that end of year gift today?


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