Dogs have been my best friends for fifty years. As a Guide Dog trainer, I have worked with people who are blind and visually impaired for over 40 years and have trained 2000 dogs and people during that that lifetime.
I have also trained other types of service dogs who help seniors, people with multiple disabilities, and children with autism. My life has been committed to this work, and I have found immense pleasure in this career.
Every dog I worked with has been special to me, and some followed a trajectory of growth that was amazing to watch develop. I consider it a privilege to have been assisting these dogs and their handlers who trusted them to navigate this crazy world we live in. I am proud of my chosen profession. Many of the dogs and people I trained, the teams of two: person/dog, have lifted my spirits in ways you cannot imagine. However the 2 most important dogs in my life, both GSD’s are not guides, but they are animals who would have, or would lay down their lives in order to protect me. The first “Otto” was my USN K-9 with whom I had the honor of serving in the jungles of Viet Nam in 1969 and 70. He did literally saved my life, and on many occasions by letting me know when danger was near.
The second dog is here, lying at my feet as I write this. Her name is “Anke”, and she is “the love of my life” “the spirit who saved mine”
Originally, I began training her to be a guide dog for a dear friend. I was given Anke on a Friday and remember that she had the most soulful eyes. She came to me from Custom Canines in Wisconsin a non profit group that trains dogs and puppies for people and children with all manner of disabilities. I was asked simply to puppy raise Anke as a possible breeder, and to teach her guidework. At that same time, I had begun working with a couple of PTSD clients and dogs, while attending a program for them in Malibu called “Save a Warrior.” Because I am a veteran, I was subject to the same scrutiny as all the other participants, and I too was diagnosed with PTSD. This did not surprise me, as I had long experienced anger, bewilderment, and confusion at the world which I never could come to terms with.
With the tools that the program gave me and the continued support from my fellow Brothers and Sisters, I was able to start the Healing Process myself. But, something was missing. I saw that I could get better, and I could continue my work with training dogs, but I also saw that I was strangely alone and I was still having difficulties and it was frustrating.
Working with Anke made me realize that she was what I needed. She tried to tell me but “I was too close to see it”! Those around me all saw my need for this comfort and support from this wonderful dog. Nicole with Custom Canines and Richard and Mary from Operation Freedom Paws saw it. My fellow Guide dog Instructors saw it. So I started working with her and paying attention to her signals. She is truly an amazing animal and I am blessed to have her by my side.
Last month I was given the most incredible gift ever. Nicole gave me “Anke” as my full time service dog, a gift I will never be able to repay so I will just “Pay it forward to others in need”
Thank you Nicole you are an amazing friend.
“Anke is my guardian Angel” and she has my back and I am grateful.