Guardian Angels trainer Joanne lives in Pittsburgh, but on Friday, May 22nd, she booked a one-way ticket to Florida to meet up with Guardian Angels Florida trainer, Paige. The 2 of them loaded a truck with crates, and proceeded to drive to Pittsburgh, because that’s where they were needed.

5 applicants, who’d been eagerly awaiting their pairing with their service dogs had been postponed since March due to the COVID-19 outbreak. We knew they couldn’t wait much longer.

Many of our recipients will tell you “we were their last hope” – the last option before taking drastic and often fatal actions to rid themselves of PTSD. Time is of the essence. So Paige and Joanne drove the 5 fully trained medical service dogs to Pittsburgh to unite them, at last, with their waiting recipients.

Paired were:

Paige and Joanne spent four full days with the new teams; a condensed version of our normal 10-day pairing process. The rest of the new teams’ lessons will be completed through online sessions.

Our new teams are all doing great. Recipient Craig, a 21-year Marine Corps Veteran said: “This has been a life-changing experience. This was my last hope … She looks in my eyes and I feel relief. Foxy is calm and reassuring, which helps with balance and anxiety issues.”  Foxy’s training was made possible by Colcom Foundation.

Jay Cox, worked in diplomatic security for the U.S. Department of State, and served as a police officer. He suffered a traumatic brain injury and PTSD, as the result of a hostage situation. When asked about his pairing with Service Dog, Whaler he said: “This is the first thing I’ve been excited about,” I’m excited to go home to my wife with Whaler. The dog is intense and strong-willed, and he has already helped me deal with nightmares by jumping into bed at night and redirecting my attention.“He broke that loop – I couldn’t believe it.” Service Dog Whaler’s training was made possible by PNC.

Ryan, paired with Service Dog Rikki (or Rik, as he calls him) said: “He’s a lot like me … I’m very, very happy,”I feel like we already share a special bond. Ryan served in the Marine Corps for four years, and is veterans coordinator for the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections. The Yellow Ribbon Fund made Rikki’s training a reality.

Jim is the Farrell VFW post commander and a Marine Corps veteran. Paired with Service Dog Judd, Jim said: “He’s very calming to me. We just seem to click, Judd is already helping me sleep better.”  Judd’s training was completed thanks to Armstrong.

Alexis served in the Army from 2011 to 2016, and spent quite a bit of time researching service dogs. “The Guardian Angels application process is long and includes a background check, but, she said, the wait was worth it. I cried my eyes out,” she said of her first meeting with Doc. “We have a really strong bond”. Doc helps her with panic attacks – like she has a sixth sense, said Alexis, who is studying to earn a doctorate degree in psychology. The Colcom Foundation also made Service Dog Doc’s training a reality.

Following the pairing, Trainer Paige headed back to Florida to return to her normal work schedule. Please join us in wishing all our new recipients the best of luck in their new journey.