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This month we are featuring Lucy and Hope (Emory). Lucy writes:

For years I turned down the idea of a service dog, I had two cats that I had rescued since they were kittens and thought they would be enough, I was wrong.

LH1Last year was a very difficult time for me. Physically, mentally and most of all emotionally. Although I believe in my Savior Jesus Christ and remained in my faith the best I could, there was something going on inside me with everything that was going on in my life that said “give up.” I was done. I didn’t want to live anymore. I believe it was then that I started looking into Next Step. I started the process and got my doctors to sign a few papers, (they were glad I was considering a service dog). It was my “last chance” so I gave it what I had. I started attending classes religiously every Saturday. Met Sally, Sandie, Judy and Gina. I wasn’t all that comfortable or open for the first few months there. Then Bo happened. Bo, a golden retriever/lab mix started giving me hope. We started training a couple times a week and things were looking up. Unfortunately, Gina, the trainer, didn’t think that Bo was a good fit for me and decided to switch him and place another dog with me. Well, I was livid. I was so discouraged and came very close to giving up. This seemed like just another thing that didn’t go right for me. I had grown attached to Bo and couldn’t handle not having him.

Just as I was considering leaving Next Step, they bring in a young, sad looking black lab named Emory. Well, Gina asked me to give her a chance, train with her and see the possibility, if not then they could always change dogs. So, we trained. Little by little it started becoming evident that Emory might be for me. We continued to work.

From the moment Hope came home with me, she completely changed my life.

On December 19th 2015 as I walked into Saturday morning class, I was surprised by Gina when she handed Emory to me and said she was mine to take home and train for certification.  I was thrilled. We had been doing so well tLH2hat I knew we would be great together. My heart was changing for Emory and I knew that it would all work out for the best. Taking Emory home meant I could rename her, so, I named her Hope. She literally became my Hope. God knew what I needed in order to start getting better. I felt so blessed. From the moment Hope came home with me, to this day, she has completely changed my life. God knew what I needed, too, and blessed us both with one another. You see, God doesn’t just give us what we need but He uses animals, dogs like Hope, to help His children. I had been praying for help, for a miracle, and here comes Hope.

Next Step Service Dogs changed my life. Sally and Gina not only give these wonderful dogs a second chance to a happy life, but they see hope and potential in us veterans, too. Since having Hope, I have not had a panic attack, my depression is at its lowest and I don’t see many gray days anymore. Everyone from family to coworkers have seen a huge change in me. Hope has changed even my work atmosphere. She is loved and cared for wherever we go. In the moments that I have had emotional breakdowns, Hope immediately comes to me, starts licking the tears off my face, presses her face into my chest and gives me her paw. I have never known such comfort and love from an animal. I hope you believe in God and His miracles. He placed this wonderful organization in my path, He blessed me with such wonderful, amazing, and powerful women, and He gave me a second family with Next Step. They were not a coincidence. They were His will for me. Hope is my help and motivation. God created her just for me and she became my “Hope.”

The “Three G’s” we received this past month.  They are all beautiful male labs.  We are so blessed.

Gunner (Gugunnernther) – has already been paired with David P.  and this is truly a blessing.  David has been in our program for over six months and has been patiently waiting to be teamed with a new buddy.  Gunner took directly to David upon their first meeting.  Gunner found him immediately.

Ranger (Galahad) – It doesn’t get much better than this fine young lab.  He is so preciousand a perfect fit for a Marine and his family of three children.  Dustin will beranger his teammate and was looking for a dog that could not only provide the service he needed but also be a fit for his son with Autism.  Ranger is the man. Not only is he a favorite of our trainer, Kim, but he has stolen the heart of our dog sitter, Liz.  He also loves water and Standup Paddle Boarding!

Gus (Gaus) – Gus was chosen for the sweet boy he is.  He has been teamed with Scott S.  Scott is not ogusnly a Veteran but a First Responder that served with the San Diego Police Department.  Scott has been searching a long time to find an organization to help him find a teammate and Gus will be that dog.  Scott is in need of a dog Gus’s size to help with his mobility issues.  According to his trainer, Gina, he does have quite the obsession with water (likes to swim in his bowl) but other than that, he is right on track to be a solid service dog for Scott.

Thanks for reaching out to us! Our thank you to each of you whose lives have touched these dogs. You can all be proud!

Miscellaneous Pictures of Our Dogs at Work and at Play


Please remember that the men and women receiving your dogs are living with PTSD and/or TBI and sometimes have mobility, seizure, and other disabilities. With the socialization and basic training that you have given your dogs, creating our new teams has been both fun and rewarding.