KC & Zander
A Letter from KC's wife, Dodie:
My husband got his first service dog shortly after he was diagnosed with PTSD. Zander came into our lives at a time that his nightmares, depression and anxiety had taken over our lives and had sucked all of the life out of my normally vibrant, outgoing, and confident husband. Zander immediately started waking him from his nightmares before they could negatively affect his day and calmed him when he left the house and his anxiety would start to kick in. Zander allowed him to cut his prescription back to the bare minimum and significantly reduced the number over all he was taking. Within a short period of time he was back to being my normal husband and was willing to go out and about without feeling overwhelmed, anxious and for lack of a better word, scared. Zander also helped other’s whom he came in contact with. On his good days, he would trigger on others who were having a bad day and lift them up, or bring it to my husband’s attention so that he might lift them up. These dogs are amazing and give the families and the handler their lives back. There is no end to their calming presence and the joy they bring the handler as well as the family.
"When my world goes dark and my mind starts to slip into the lair where the demons lay in wait, Zander reaches down into that pit of blackness and snatches me back to the light with licks and cuddles and an unconditional love that defies mortal understanding. That’s what Zander does for me."
A Letter from David's wife, Angela:
Rex came into David’s life at the most opportune time. David suffers from PTSD, as most do that have been involved in any life threatening situation. He was at the point that he really wasn’t excited about even getting out the bed in the morning. Since Rex was given to him, he has become a completely different person. He is more outgoing and energetic, but most of all he has someone to give him that sense of peace and calm just when he needs it. I truly believe that service dogs can be life saving best friends that are priceless. I thank God all the time for allowing David and Rex to find each other. They are both goofballs who I truly believe needed each other equally.
"Rex is the most amazing thing that happened to me... he's such a great companion, loyal, and obedient. He goes everywhere with me... and I always feel safe and protected with my battle buddy!"
- David E.
Craig & Juni
A Letter from Craig's Marine brother, Tyler:
Back in 2007, I met Craig, who at the time was a recruiter for the United States Marine Corps. Craig and I stayed in touch for more than 10 years, while I served in the Corps, when I was deployed to Afghanistan, and after I got out. I last saw him in 2019 when he worked for me on a small island off the coast of NC, Ocracoke. In the late months of 2021, Craig was diagnosed with stage 4 colon cancer that spread to his liver. He found out what I was doing, and became very interested in going through our 30-week course to obtain a service dog. After a visit to his doctors, he went in for emergency surgery, and I had to make the unfortunate call for him not to attend our upcoming class. After talking with Chris, we were able to get Craig a service dog, Juni. After Craig received Juni, his life completely changed, within just a few hours Craig found the motivation to get up from his recliner. He has started gaining weight, he has more energy to want to do more activities, and his overall mood has changed tremendously. Juni gave Craig purpose and continues to push him through his chemo treatments. It is amazing being able to see firsthand what a service dog has done for my brother, and it continues to drive myself to want to do so much more.
"You guys have changed my life"
- Craig S.
In 2011 Kandahar Provence Afghanistan, my unit and I was on a routine mounted patrol, I was the gunner on the lead truck. Our Vehicle was struck by an IED (Improvised Explosive Device). I woke up several days later in the hospital completely confused and lost to where I was and how I ended up there. The Doctor soon came in and told me what had happened. I was diagnosed with TBI, (traumatic brain injury) and following the explosion was medevac'd out. After receiving an MRI/CT scan they noticed sever hemorrhaging, and undergone surgery. I soon found out that that two of my fellow brothers did not survive the explosion.
I was struck with guilt with the thought of surviving and felt as though I should have been stronger and then maybe I could have helped them live. Guilt plagued me for years wishing it was me and not them. In 2016 depression and guilt got the best of me. I attempted suicide. The guilt of surviving while others didn't, past moments on repeat, faces of those lost, I was ashamed of myself for living. I was given medication and therapy for a while. But I still thought about my failed attempt and planned out my next and final one...
A year goes by and I get married. Marriage was a struggle for us. We fought constantly and rage overcomes me at random times. we go to marriage counseling time and time again, but our marriage was at a breaking point. That's when my life changed forever. I adopted a dog named Copper. He is a Rhodesian ridgeback and I saw him at the shelter he was 35lbs neglected and abused and all I can think about is how that dog needs me. I adopted him and brought him
home. Raised him to health and wanted to train him. I later reached out to Jeff Minder from Top Tier K9 and attended the Pet Training and Certification Program. But I couldn't just stop there. Training dogs was changing my life my marriage was stronger than ever my depression left me. I no longer was taking drugs for depression I was focusing on taking care of Copper. I soon went on to complete Top Tier K9's Foundation Dog Training. In the program you raise a pup from 6 weeks old to complete a multitude of tasks, Obedience, Tracking, Scent Detection, and Protection. I Got Cairo a 6-week-old Dutch Shepherd. We Trained every chance we got. I went on to Certify In Foundation Dog Training.
This program has saved my life my marriage and has given me something to wake up to every morning and love to do. I now own my own Business Thin Line K9 and could not be happier. Dog training is not a job but a therapy.
Valerie and Tiny
My name is Valerie Hollingsworth, and I was raised in rural Missouri. Unfortunately, I was sexually assaulted as a child, which left me with some people issues. I joined the Marines straight out of high school as an avionics technician. Where I worked on CH-53’s for 5 years, and spent one year as a rifle instructor. The Marine Corps was a rewarding experience. However, it did little to help with the anxiety, and sleeplessness that has plagued me for so long.
Originally, my husband and I went to Top Tier K9 for a demonstration dog, and certification to represent our own dog business, “Loyalty Dogs.” Honestly, I didn’t really think my issues were an actual problem. Avoiding people, and distrust seemed normal. It didn’t take long for the Build A Battle Buddy program to begin unraveling those things for me, and when I started seeing the world from the other side I realized maybe I did need a little assistance.
At times, I feel my anxiety beginning to build, and I take my service dog aside to play. In moments, I’m giggling like a child, and things brighten. When my dog and I are out I don’t worry about other people. It helps knowing that my dog has my back no matter where I go. My husband recently said that what this dog has done for me is priceless, and he couldn’t have said it better.
"Thank you Top Tier K9, and Forgotten Coast k9 for everything you're doing."
Serenity and Battle
After being kicked out of my home and experiencing a less than desirable childhood, I joined the Marine Corps at the age of 17. The Corps was a beacon of hope for success through challenge and it was the comradery I always longed for from family. I was zealous to serve my country and to have the feeling of belonging I never had attained at home. Less than six months into my 5-year contract I was raped on base by a fellow Marine of a higher rank and position than me. The rest of my career was painted by this event, I no longer felt safe, that I belonged, or that I could trust anyone around me. Over the years of my enlistment, I did my best to hold myself together to finish the mission I set out to, and to serve my country. Throughout the rest of my enlistment, I faced multiple accounts of sexual harassment on top of the memories of my assault. I was diagnosed with PTSD, depression, anxiety, and deal with intrusive thoughts daily related to these issues. After EAS-ing and losing that ‘mission first’ distraction my mental health continued to deteriorate. I pushed to have a successful life but felt hindrance in never being able to trust people or feel safe in the world. When Forgotten Coast K9 presented me with this opportunity to receive and learn to train with my own servicedog I knew I was finally reaching a turning point in my healing journey.
As soon as I met Battle, I knew she was meant to be a part of my life, I feel a trust in her I haven’t been able to have with anyone since my assault. I no longer feel that I have to face my demons alone, I have my Battle buddy near me at all times. I can move forward with the goal to thrive, not just survive anymore. Traveling, enjoying being in public, and sleeping through the night all are things I look forward to instead of having an overwhelming dread for. I’m not worried about panic attacks disabling me or being in a vulnerable position alone anymore. She is unlocking a path to security and happiness I thought I would never be able to find again. I look forward to training and working with her every day.
Brooks and Bane
After separating from the Air Force, Brooks suffered from severe depression, social anxiety and hypervigilance. He thought he didn’t deserve help due to not seeing combat. After it started to affect life at home with his family with no interest in getting out of the house, brooks began seeking help. When bane came into his life his passion for working with dogs blossomed and gave him a purpose to get out to expand on his training with bane and gave him an outlet to focus his mind on something positive.
"Bane changed my life, and I owe it to every dog to make them the strongest and most confident dogs they can be. It also showed me how to grow and be more confident in the same respect.
Don’t be ashamed to seek help, even if you think you don’t deserve it."