Source: ‘You can see the changes’: At Plum event, Veterans attest to value of medical service dogs


“As a sufferer of post-traumatic stress disorder, Army veteran Debbie Richey left her house only rarely.

That changed with some constant canine companionship.

“I finally started to be able to go out in public. At first, I was a little afraid. I wasn’t sure. I never had a dog before,” Richey said. “I started taking chances: I’m going to see if I can do this. And every time I did, she was right there with me.”

Navy — ironically named as a pup, considering Richey’s branch of service — went through two years of training with the Williston, Fla.-based nonprofit Guardian Angels Medical Service Dogs Inc. before being paired with her veteran.

“They handed me this leash and they said, ‘From this day going forward, you’re not going to be without this dog.’ And I couldn’t wrap my mind around that. How do you not go anywhere without a dog?” Richey recalled.

But the arrangement works:

“It made me happy with my kids. It made me a better mother, better wife.”

To read the full story, please visit:

Photo: Harry Funk | Tribune Review

Dozens of puppies like this one are being specially trained in Williston, Fla., on the main campus of Guardian Angels Medical Service Dogs. One of them has been sponsored by the Grosse Pointe Yacht Club. It didn’t take long for Grosse Pointe Yacht Club Commodore Brian Fish to secure the first $5,000.

Read the full story here

Source: Help unleashed: GP Yacht Club sponsors Guardian Angels dog

Funds to benefit Michigan Veterans living with Permanent Disabilities

Jackson, MI (EIN Presswire): Guardian Angels Medical Service Dogs is honored to have received a grant in the amount of $10,000 from the Consumers Energy Foundation.

This grant will assist Guardian Angels in training, donating, and supporting our veteran recipients in the State of Michigan. The funds will help to cover the costs to raise and train medical service dogs for veterans with visible and invisible disabilities.

“Veterans are an asset to our communities and our company, and we worked closely with our Veterans Advisory Panel employee resource group to support the important work Guardian Angels does in our communities.” said Carolyn Bloodworth, secretary/treasurer of the Consumers Energy Foundation. “We are proud to support our local heroes through this grant.”

When asked to comment on the grant award, Carol Borden, Founder and CEO of Guardian Angels said “We are honored that we’ve been selected for support by Consumers Energy Foundation. With several paired teams already in Michigan, and several more applicants already on our waiting list, this grant will be of great assistance in serving Michigan’s veterans in need.



About Guardian Angels Medical Service Dogs

Guardian Angels Medical Service Dogs is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization based in Williston, Florida and has grown into a nation-wide medical service dog organization. The organization rescues, raises, trains and then donates individually trained medical service dogs to veterans, first responders and others who suffer from disabilities including PTS, Traumatic Brain Injury, diabetic and seizure disorders, mobility issues and more. Since their inception in 2010, Guardian Angels has donated and paired hundreds of individually trained medical service dogs with those in need, in more than 30 states across the nation. For more information, visit:

About Consumers Energy Foundation:

 The Consumers Energy Foundation is the charitable arm of Consumers Energy, Michigan’s largest energy provider. The Foundation enables communities to thrive and grow by investing in what’s most important to Michigan – its people, our planet and Michigan’s prosperity. In 2021, the Consumers Energy Foundation, Consumers Energy, its employees, and retirees contributed more than $17.5 million to Michigan nonprofits. For more information, visit

Pittsburgh, PA November 21, 2023: Chris Ann Phillips, Chief Administrative officer of Guardian Angels Medical Service Dogs has been awarded the Pittsburgh Veteran of the Year by veteran-owned Military Friendly® in a contest sponsored by Fort Pitt Capital Group.

Phillips was chosen from among six outstanding veterans through public online voting. Those candidates included another Guardian Angels’ staff member, Mr. Jack Wagner.

Chris Ann’s story will be highlighted in the April 2023 issue of G.I. Jobs Magazine, which is distributed free to transitioning service members and veterans worldwide.

Chris Ann has been deeply involved in the veteran community for more than 20 years. Before joining Guardian Angels, Chris Ann established the military recruiting program for PNC Bank, and was the lead in creating the Community Mutt Strut. Chris Ann has served as a mentor for American Corporate Partners, and a recipient of the ESGR Patriot Award. She was a two-time finalist for the UA Chamber of Commerce’s Colonel Michael Endres Leadership Award and serves as the Director of Development for Pittsburgh Warrior Hockey.

Notified about the award, Chris Ann said: “I am honored to receive this award on behalf of all of us that serve our nation’s veterans. It is a privilege to be the voice of those in the veteran community, no matter the need. In my role at Guardian Angels Medical Service Dogs, I am blessed to be part of a mission that truly saves lives. My work is not done and as long as one veteran is in need, I will continue to serve”.

Phillips served in the United States Marine Corps from 1981 to 1985, separating as a Sergeant.

Military Friendly will present the award to Chris Ann at this year’s Gala of Angels, a fundraising event to be held on December 7 in Pittsburgh.

Tuesday, September 13, 2022 – Harry Funk for Trib Live

Source: Mutt Strut: Pittsburgh event benefits group that provides service dogs to veterans


“After a two-year hiatus, Pittsburgh’s Community Mutt Strut returned for an in-person day of fun for four-legged friends and their people pals, all for a good cause. The event, held virtually during the covid-19 pandemic, benefits Guardian Angels Medical Service Dogs Inc., a Florida-based nonprofit that rescues, raises and trains canines to provide military veterans with essential companionship. “We’re here to add awareness to what our veterans are facing,” Plum resident Bill Jeffcoat said. “These veterans are coming home with visible and invisible disabilities: post-traumatic stress, traumatic brain injury, insulin dependence, seizure disorders, mobility issues.” He is president of Life Changing Service Dogs for Veterans, a Pittsburgh-area organization formed seven years ago to support Guardian Angels’ mission. “These dogs allow these veterans to become a part of society. They’re able to go out, become employed and be part of the community once again.” Among those attending the Sept. 10 festivities was Carol Borden, founder and chief executive officer of Guardian Angels, which has its headquarters in Williston, Fla. “What a perfect day to hold the Mutt Strut, as this is National Suicide Prevention Day. And that is what we do,” she said. A major impetus behind her organization is helping to reduce the number of veterans who take their own lives, with the statistic that 22 per day often cited. “Our suicide rate still stands at zero,” Borden said about Guardian Angels’ pairings, which have been taking place for 12 years.

The Mutt Strut’s major sponsor has been PNC Financial Services Group Inc.  “We do a lot of things at PNC that we’re really proud of throughout the year, but for me, this is right at the top,” Gregory Jordan, executive vice president, general counsel and chief administrative officer, said. “It’s so direct. It’s so powerful, and I think it’s so meaningful.” Since 2016, PNC has raised enough money on Guardian Angels’ behalf to provide the financial resources to train nearly three dozen canines, according to Jordan. “You can say 35 dogs,” he said. “But when I hear that, I think 35 lives.”

The dogs’ training focuses on mitigating the challenges of veterans facing post-traumatic stress disorder, and the canines also learn to sense medical emergencies, such as internal bleeding. “These dogs become life-saving,” Jeffcoat said. His organization, which was founded by Vietnam-era veterans Tony Accamando and George D’Angelo in 2015, is working on fundraising to build a Guardian Angels campus in Robinson Township, Washington County. The estimate is that the new facility will double the capability for training dogs. Jeffcoat is another Vietnam veteran, serving with the U.S. Marine Corps as a dog handler. Although the military valued dogs as scouts and trackers, most were euthanized overseas rather than being returned to the United States, including Jeffcoat’s partner, Fraulein.

On a positive note, Mutt Strut 2022 exceeded its fundraising goal of $300,000, drawing supporters and dog lovers from all over the region. Traveling from her Hampton home, for example, was Emily Murphy. “For the past few years, we haven’t been able to participate because of the pandemic. But it’s nice to be back and show support for the organization,” she said about Guardian Angels. Representing Unleashed Doggie Daycare in West Deer, she brought Farrow, a therapy dog who visits establishments such as nursing homes and assisted-living facilities to provide comfort and support to residents. Many others visited with their dogs to enjoy activities including the main event, with many of the pooches in costume as they paraded along a path near Frick Park’s Lawn Bowling Greens. “The dogs are the heroes. They are amazing. But all of you are heroes, as well, because you’re here supporting this event, having a great time, bringing your own dogs out for fun,” Borden said prior to the parade. “So let’s have fun.”

For more information, visit and

Harry Funk is a Tribune-Review news editor. You can contact Harry at

Thanks to Erica Francis and Fox2 Detroit for sharing our program! Thanks also to our Michigan Regional Coordinator, Mary Lamparter; Veteran & Guardian Angels Staff Member, Nancy Dakin and to Recipient Matt and his Service Dog, Cobalt for sharing their incredible story.

If you believe that a service dog could assist you, learn more about the process here.

If you would like to donate, to help us continue training service dogs for those in need, click here.

Guardian Angels Medical Service Dogs has been recognized as the winner of the 2022 VETTY Award in the suicide prevention category, presented by the Academy of United States Veterans. Guardian Angels is a national 501(c)3nonprofit organization whose mission is to rescue, raise, train, and donate highly skilled medical service dogs to veterans, first responders and individuals to mitigate the challenges of both visible and invisible disabilities.

Guardian Angels Medical Service Dogs’ recipients suffer from a myriad of disabilities, including PTS, military sexual trauma, traumatic brain injuries, diabetic and seizure disorders, mobility issues and more.

These disabilities can often lead to feelings of isolation and suicidal ideation for those affected. The highly trained service dogs that Guardian Angels provides to their recipients help to improve overall health and happiness, restore their sense of freedom and independence, and create a new normal full of possibilities.

Over the past 12 years, Guardian Angels has provided hundreds of service dogs to individuals across dozens of states in the U.S. To date, not a single Guardian Angels Medical Service Dog recipient has been lost to suicide.

“We are so proud of everyone connected with our organization,” says Carol Borden, Founder and CEO of Guardian Angels Medical Service Dogs. “From staff to volunteers and foster trainers, everyone involved has played a fundamental role in advancing our mission of making a difference in the lives of veterans and our other recipients. It’s an honor to have our work once again recognized by the Academy of United States Veterans.”

This marks the nonprofit’s third VETTY win and fifth consecutive year as a finalist for the award. The organization previously won the award in 2021 for outstanding efforts in veterans’ suicide prevention, and awarded the 2018 VETTY for outstanding efforts in Veterans’ Mental Health. The Academy of United States Veterans established the annual VETTY awards to recognize those that contribute to the well-being of the veteran community.

The 7th annual VETTY award gala was held on April 23rd at the M Resort and Casino in Las Vegas. Guardian Angels Medical Service Dogs’ staff member and Army veteran, Sean O’Rourke was in Las Vegas, along with one of our incredible Service Dogs to accept the award from Assal Ravandi, Founder & CEO of the Academy of United States Veterans.

As he accepted the award on behalf of Guardian Angels O’Rourke said, “Let’s ensure the focus remains on all our veterans and helping them find healing and that beautiful new normal through extraordinary dogs. Thank you so very much for recognizing our labor of love”.

To learn more about how Guardian Angels Medical Service Dogs works to prevent suicide among veterans and others affected by disabilities, visit

About Guardian Angels Medical Service Dogs

 Guardian Angels Medical Service Dogs is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization based in Williston, Florida and has grown into a nation-wide medical service dog organization. The organization rescues, raises, trains and then donates individually trained medical service dogs to veterans, first responders and others who suffer from disabilities including PTSD, Traumatic Brain Injury, diabetic and seizure disorders, mobility issues and more. Since their inception in 2010, Guardian Angels has donated and paired hundreds of individually trained medical service dogs with those in need. For more information, visit:



Mara Carruthers goes for a walk on a dreary, rainy day with Allie, a two-year-old German Shepherd who just gave birth to 7 puppies, at Guardian Angels Medical Service Dogs in Williston on February 8. [Bruce Ackerman/Ocala Gazette] 2022.

Linda Lorie doubts she’d be alive today had it not been for the quick action of her service dog, Grant. Lorie was going up a set of concrete steps that had metal edges when she lost her balance, missed the handrail, and toppled backward. In a split second, Grant rushed beneath her and braced her fall.

“He saved my life that day,” said Lorie. “I wound up with a cast on my ankle for a while, but I literally wouldn’t be here today if it weren’t for him.”

Bred and trained by Guardian Angel Medical Service Dogs (GAMSD) in Williston, Grant received the organization’s “Hero of the Year” award in 2014 for his act of heroism.

At the time of Lorie’s fall, Grant was almost two years old and had recently completed his training. Lorie was paired with him because she suffered from balance issues and from post-traumatic stress disorder related to severe physical and mental abuse when she was a child. Now 72, Lorie said her German shepherd service dog has saved her life several more times when he alerted her to heart and blood pressure problems, and again when his alert led to a diagnosis of cancer.

“These dogs are trained to hone in on those things,” Lorie said. “The trainers teach you to listen to your dog because almost everything they do is a communication of some kind.”

GAMSD is a 501(c) (3) organization founded in May 2010 by Carol Borden, an award winner in her own right, having been named WIPIN (Women in the Pet Industry Network) Corporate Woman of the Year in 2018.

Since its beginning, the organization has paired more than 380 dogs with recipients, said Mary Jo Brandt, chief operations officer for GAMSD, adding that training the animal costs an average of $25,000, but the recipient receives the dog free of charge.

“That’s where donations come in,” said Brandt. “Donors sponsor the dogs and that’s how we’re able to donate them to the recipients.”

For long-distance recipients, donations also help to cover airfare, rental cars, and hotel charges for 10 days, so they can work with their dog before taking the animal home, Brandt said.

GAMSD breeds German shepherds of Czech descent; however, the trainers also take on rescue dogs of different breeds that show an ability to work with people. Brandt noted that a lot of police departments use German shepherds, “Because they have an incredibly high work ethic and they’re always on the alert, even when they look like they’re sleeping,” she said.

“(German shepherds) mature very quickly,” Brandt added. “We start training at about four weeks old, and in about a year-and-a-half they are able to be paired off and start working. A full mobility dog can open and close doors, turn lights on and off, pick up dropped items and get food out of the refrigerator for you.”

The majority of the organization’s recipients suffer from PTSD, Brandt said. Dogs are trained to respond to a variety of physiological needs as well, including diabetic issues, seizures, and mobility/balance problems. GAMSD does not train guide dogs.


Linda Lorie and her husband, Rod, a U.S. Army Vietnam veteran, pose with Linda’s Guardian Angels Medical Service Dog, Grant, a nine-year-old German Shepherd, at their home in Rainbow Lakes Estates on February 8. [Bruce Ackerman/Ocala Gazette] 2022.

“I’m just so passionate over what we do here,” said Brandt. “For me, it’s because my father was paired with a service dog and I was able to see an immediate change in his personality and life. To be able to see that as a volunteer, and now as a staff member, I get to see the work that we do makes a difference.”

Currently, the Williston campus pairs dog with recipients in 30 states and the District of Columbia. The purchase of 102 acres near Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, has allowed for the construction of a second campus, Brandt said. In addition to federal criteria that require the recipient to be declared permanently disabled, the organization also requires that dog owners be physically, cognitively, and financially able to care for their animals.

There are many opportunities for volunteers to get involved, from office work to grounds keeping, to fundraising, said Brandt. A favorite among volunteers is Saturday’s “Puppy Huggers,” when adults and children come out and socialize with the dogs.

Staff member Chris Weber can personally relate to people who receive a service dog. A traumatic brain injury survivor, Weber was injured in a car accident about six years ago. He couldn’t return to his former job but found a new purpose when he came to work at GAMSD.

“What helps me the most at my work is knowing what our recipients are going through,” said Weber. “Not everyone is blessed to the level I have, but knowing what I’m doing that day or that week, somebody is going to have their life turned around.”

As GAMSD’s development project administrator, Weber also helps with fundraising and public speaking events. But during his first demonstration with a service dog, he suddenly had an anxiety attack.

“I was having heart palpitations,” Weber recalled. “The dog was actually alerting to me. He came up to me, whining, and he sat next to my side. He put all his weight against my leg and kept nudging my hand. The crowd couldn’t tell, but I knew it.”

The actual pairing of recipients with a service dog usually falls to Maranda Jacob, the organization’s national recipient relations director.

Currently more than 100 Florida recipients have GAMSD service dogs, Jacob said, adding that the application process involves personal and professional references, a background check, and sometimes a home visit. Veterans and first responders must provide proof of service and discharge or retirement. There’s also a $50 non-refundable application fee.

Applicants ultimately meet with the trainers and staff to make sure they are paired with the right dog.

“It’s not an exact science, but it works very well,” said Jacob. “Every now and then we get one that doesn’t match. We have dogs in various stages of training. Sometimes a dog might look right for a person but he’s not ready yet. We try to make it right with a Plan B dog.”

According to Chief Administrative Officer Chris Ann Phillips, recipients receive their dogs free of charge, thanks to federal and state grants, corporate sponsorships, and individual donations. Phillips and her dog, Petro, have joined other staff members for fund-raising demonstrations at businesses, schools, churches, and community events.

“I retired from PNC Bank, one of the largest supporters of Guardian Angels,” said Phillips. “I am a Marine Corps vet with a disability and this is where I need to be.”

Great article about Guardian Angels Medical Service Dogs written by Darren Yuvan, and published on Monday, November 8, 2021.

Click Here to read the full article, or see the pdf attached below:

Join host Guardian Angels Medical Service Dogs, and Event Sponsor PNC Bank for Mutt Strut 2021.

This event is virtual & nationwide and will be live from September 8, 2021 – September 11, 2021.

The dates were chosen on purpose. Sept. 10th is Suicide Awareness Day, and September 11th we will recognize the 20th anniversary of the September 11th attacks – the single largest reason why this generation of soldiers chose to join our armed forces, and fight for our freedom.

The goal is simple – bring together patriotic Americans who want to help our Veterans, struggling with permanent disabilities that are both visible and invisible. We aim to raise funds for 11 additional service dogs this year, and your participation can help us get there.

Because we never have to share another video like the one below, featuring our friend, Stephanie Hannan. Stephanie is the sister of the late United States Air Force Master Sergeant, Brian Charles Riley. Please help her honor his memory by watching her powerful story below.

Meet the Guardian Angels Ambassadors. Recipients of our Service Dogs, who have volunteered to participate in the Mutt Strut, and offer their perspective on how their dogs have changed their lives.

Guardian Angels are thrilled to announce that we have been awarded a VETTY Award in the Suicide Prevention category by the Academy of United States Veterans (AUSV).

On Saturday, July 3, 2021, the AUSV held their Vetty La Vie Awards ceremony. Actor and philanthropist, Casey Affleck presented the award for Outstanding Service to Veterans in the Suicide Prevention Category to Guardian Angels’ Recipient and Advisory Council Member, Chris Cadigan, with Service Dog Brit at his side.

Chris’ moving speech read

“On behalf of our founder, CEO, and tireless advocate Carol Borden, our board, staff, countless volunteers, foster families, donors, and all the Guardian Angels Medical Service Dogs Recipients, I would like to thank the Academy of United States Veterans for this recognition of 11 years of amazing work, donating hundreds and hundreds of dogs to recipients in 29 states.

Carol and Guardian Angels, have not lost a single recipient to suicide, and have less than a 2 percent divorce rate; lower than the Disabled Veteran rate of 90 up to percent higher than the national rate of 47 percent. We have one of the only college accredited, paid, service dog training apprentice programs, in the entire US which have been approved by the Veterans Administration under the GI Bill and are also taught to incarcerated Veterans.

Guardian Angels have participated in several notable research studies, reinforcing their program’s success, and has a proprietary 6 life-stage training program based on the mental learning capacity of a dog at various stages which builds self-confidence, the ability to think and make life saving decisions, be desensitized to things that would otherwise be scary, and never present a public safety threat, all through positive reinforcement training. In the last year, Guardian Angels created a Medical Savings plan for all of our service dog teams to further enhance the lives of the dogs. Dogs like Brit, by my side, here tonight ensure that our recipients are alerted to their unique diagnosed disabilities quickly; efficiently allowing them to effectively address an onset of symptoms which in many cases allows them to live their lives more fully.

This week, I attended the memorial service and funeral of two friends who succumbed to their invisible injuries, One a US Navy SEAL, friend, mentor and the other a classmate, fellow Army Officer and the friend that I chose to be my best man at my wedding. They had everything to live for, including a family that loved them, teenage children who excelled academically and athletically…..and long and distinguished careers that they could be proud of. It is unknown if a medical Service Dog could have helped them. Both had met my dog and were considering the application process at the time of their deaths.

Guardian Angels receive up to 40 inquiries each day. There is an average wait of approximately a year for any veteran applicant. Should you have the ability to make a donation to help train and pair an amazing dog like Brit, at MedicalServiceDogs.Org you’ll have a direct impact on helping a veteran and Guardian Angels continue this important work.”

Thank You.

This award represents Guardian Angels’ 2nd VETTY win. We were honored to receive the VETTY Award in the Mental Health Category in 2018. Watch Chris’ fantastic acceptance speech below.

We hope you enjoyed the segment!

To  sponsor a dog, please contact Jeff Dobbertien at: (352) 817-0184 or

To join in on Florida or Pennsylvania Campus Campaigns, Contact Mary Jo Brandt at: (239) 771-3703 or

To participate in our Puppy Huggers or Foster Family Programs, Please contact Kelsey Klee at: (352) 789-5016 or

Join our Paw Prints Monthly Giving Club: Paw Prints Club

If you are interested in applying for a Service Dog, please visit: Medical Service Dogs

March is Brain Injury Awareness Month, and LEX18 news out of Lexington, KY has aired a story about Brain Injury Awareness, featuring Recipient Antonio, his Service Dog, Alice (2019 American Humane Hero Dog of the Year) along with his mother, Tara, talking about how her son’s traumatic brain injury has drastically changed their life, and how Service Dog Alice gives Antonio a sense of normalcy.  Watch the full story here:

Recipient Kelsey and her Super Service Dog Flag were featured on WFLA station “Bloom” program today, talking about Women’s History Month, and of course, Flag!


PreviousNational Random Acts of Kindness Day – How you can Help Nonprofits Survive

Rhino Service Dog

NextPreparing Your Home for a Service Dog

Awards and Accreditations