Testimonials

Don

Marine

Barney has been with us for about 8 months now, and we love him so

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Don

Marine

Barney has been with us for about 8 months now, and we love him so much. He has made a difference not only in my life, but my family’s as well. I have been happier and more confident to go out and do things on my own because of him. He does an awesome job sensing when I start to have anxiety by getting my attention by aggressively nudging my hand until I pet him. This snaps me out of my moment and calms me down when I pet him. For some reason, he senses when I have nightmares too. There were many times where I woke up from a nightmare from him licking me. This gives me a sense of security knowing that he’s there to remind me that I’m home and that he’s keeping me safe. I cannot imagine being without Barney. He loves life and making people happy, and that is exactly what I want to emulate. Hopefully his attitude rubs off on me too. He sometimes is a little too happy to be around people that he forgets that he’s a service dog, but it’s my job to make sure he knows when he is working. We recently took him on his first plane ride to Salt Lake City, and he did awesome. I knew he was very anxious getting on the plane so I was acting as his service person as well. He normally never turns down a treat, but during the whole flight, he just wanted to lay down. Overall, it was a good time and I learned that he loves the snow.

Gunjan

Navy

“Dear Next Step Service Dogs, I am so thrilled to have completed this journey with

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Gunjan

Navy

“Dear Next Step Service Dogs, I am so thrilled to have completed this journey with you guys. Thank you for always knowing what and how to solve my issues related to my disability. Kaiser and I have grown so much through this process. We couldn’t have made it through without your support and professional skills. Even when I felt unwell and unable to train Kaiser, you always encouraged me to carry on to the best of my ability. I needed that little push to get through the training. Your professionalism and patience always impressed me and my husband. There were many times when Kaiser did not perform a command correctly during his training but Sally’s persistence and patience always prevailed and once he knew what was expected of him, training seemed like a dance J.

Given my disabilities, I have a long road ahead of me but I am so grateful to you and your team of trainers for making my life manageable with the help of my newly trained service dog! I finally am able to leave my house without needing my husband by my side. Kaiser makes sure I have right amount of space to make me feel comfortable in public. He has helped me stay in the moment when I encounter flashbacks and panic attacks. Something I didn’t achieve in the past three years. I would like to extend a special thanks to Sally for her amazing training skills and for making training my service dog a pleasant and positive experience. My husband and I would always leave every training session with a smile on our faces. Sally is not only a great trainer but also a great person. Eric and I feel blessed to have met her and have her as Kaiser’s trainer. I wish you all the best in the future and thank you again for all you guys do for our disabled veterans.” (May 2014)

Alex

Marine

“What I love about Next Step Service Dogs program is that they gave me a

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Alex

Marine

“What I love about Next Step Service Dogs program is that they gave me a new chance at life, to get out and do things that I would never be able to do without my service dog. And what this program gave to me was a sense of security and I will be able to just go on with my life and be more social. And my Service dog Jack has helped my with my PTSD by keeping me calm in big crowds and in situation that I have to be in such as the DMV and other places such as school, and he keeps me in reality and keeps me focused on what I need to do. To the Next Step program and the wonderful staff, people like Sally Montrucchio and many others that have helped me transition, to all who gave to me and my life, I thank you for the new lease on life.” (May 2014)

Dina

Navy

“Dear Next Step Service Dogs, I cannot thank you enough for what you did for

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Dina

Navy

“Dear Next Step Service Dogs, I cannot thank you enough for what you did for me. The program that my dog, GiGi, and I did with you was above any expectations we could have had. My quality of life has improved greatly since GiGi became certified as my service dog. Due to my PTSD, I struggled with getting out of the house and interacting with others. Now that GiGi is a certified service dog, I am able to go more places and feel more comfortable around others. There were two things I really loved about your training program. One was that in our training, you allowed us the time, if necessary, to talk about the problems we face. I was able to hear how other people had similar struggles and how other people benefitted from their dogs. It was inspirational at times and helped me fight my urge to stay home. Then, of course, there is the staff. The staff of Next Step Service Dogs’ staff was so wonderful to me. The patience and positive attitudes really helped me reach the finish line. If ever I needed help or advice about how to handle a situation, I could always get a hold of someone. I loved the energy of the group trainings, but also made great strides in the individual sessions. GiGi is helping me get my life back and Next Step Service Dogs made that possible. Thank you!” (May 2014)

Bolivar

Marine

As a result of three tours in Afghanistan and being blown up three times, Bolivar

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Bolivar

Marine

As a result of three tours in Afghanistan and being blown up three times, Bolivar stopped caring about life, struggled with PTSD/TBI, and a rollercoaster of emotions. While in a Navy treatment program for PTSD, Bolivar was selected to be the first resident trainer for a yellow lab puppy, Albert, who lived with the clients in a barracks setting.

“Albert saved my life. I now had a purpose and a responsibility to train this dog. I learned that I could love again because Albert always returned my love unconditionally. Before Albert, I felt distant and cutoff from everyone. After I graduated from the program, I became a full-time Next Step service dog trainer for another veteran…who better to help another veteran, than a veteran.” (May 2013)

Seth

US Coast Guard Rescue

After serving in the US Coast Guard and later becoming a college professor, Seth realized

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Seth

US Coast Guard Rescue

After serving in the US Coast Guard and later becoming a college professor, Seth realized that PTSD was still an ongoing concern for him, especially with his young family. He wanted to be connected to them, to be able to go into public places more easily, and to feel more secure.

“I renamed our service dog (a rescue dog) Shyla to “Shai” which means gift. She is a true gift in our lives, allows me to be more human and more present, to be the best father and husband that I am capable of being.” (May 2013)

John

Navy

A Navy fighter pilot with over 200 missions in Viet Nam, and later a long

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John

Navy

A Navy fighter pilot with over 200 missions in Viet Nam, and later a long career as a nurse and then as director of nursing recruitment at Scripps, John was hit with ALS in 2010 and sought help with a service dog.

“Barney (our Next Step service dog) not only helps to balance me physically and emotionally, but makes me laugh every day, creates a sense of freedom despite the increasing severity of my condition, and provides a sense of security for my well-being. My wife can now go to the store or go for walk, knowing that Barney is looking after me.” (August 2013) For more of John’s story, click here.

Stephen

Marine

I wanted to stop by before I left to
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Stephen

Marine

I wanted to stop by before I left to personally thank Sally, Gina and everyone else for the help they provided me with my transition out of the Marine Corps and for gifting me with Bo. Bo and I relocated to Montana, and we couldn’t be happier. I just wanted to say thank you again for everything you have done for me, it has not been taken for granted.  
 

Roxanne

Army

Titus really has changed my life, you all have. I was so depressed before going

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Roxanne

Army

Titus really has changed my life, you all have. I was so depressed before going to Next Step I hated my life and cried all the time. I wanted to just settle knowing that MS was going to be the end of me and didn't really care to try to get out of my wheelchair on the bad days. But, then Next Step took me in and then paired me with Titus. I haven't used my wheelchair since the last time I was practicing what to do with Titus. That means a lot! I really do appreciate Next Step Service Dogs. Thank you! Roxanne

Kyle

Marines

My name is Kyle and I served in the Marine Corps from 2006-2014, when I

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Kyle

Marines

My name is Kyle and I served in the Marine Corps from 2006-2014, when I was medically retired. I served in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2007, where my injuries occurred. I began seeking help for my PTSD in 2013 and when my therapist mentioned the possibility of obtaining a service dog – I rejected the idea. But the struggle of everyday life quickly changed my mind. I applied to multiple organizations so I could see which one would best fit my needs.  Next Step Service Dogs went above and beyond my expectations.

I ended up teaming with Kassie. I first saw Kassie about a month after entering the program and instantly knew she was the one. Since Kassie has been living with me my life has completely changed. I went from seven different medications daily down to three and lowered the doses. I can now do things by myself that I would not normally do.

Kassie and Next Step Service Dogs found me at a very low point in my life and gave me purpose.

Mike

US Coast Guard

Mike was stationed on a patrol boat based out of Seward, Alaska. It was the

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Mike

US Coast Guard

Mike was stationed on a patrol boat based out of Seward, Alaska. It was the day after Christmas in 2007 and he was returning from his holiday leave and nearing the end of a treacherous two-and-a-half-hour drive from Anchorage to Seward.  As the safety officer onboard, his ship and he knew the protocols for driving the road front and back. His vehicle was a sturdy truck with studded tires and sandbags in the bed for extra weight and traction. It was early in the afternoon; the sun was still out and road conditions had been fine for the majority of the drive.

All this did not prevent Mike from catching a patch of black ice and totaling his vehicle when it rolled completely over.  He was only 11 miles from home…

Somehow, Mike walked away from the crash physically with just a scratch on the wrist. But, mentally he was scarred for life. Unfortunately, he turned to a world of self-medication with alcoholism that lasted nearly a decade. His black hole of self-loathing tore rifts into his family, ended his marriage and did unknown physical damage to his body.  He got help …

Now after nearly three years of sobriety, a medical diagnosis and treatment plan that makes sense (including getting a service dog); Mike is on the road to redemption. Literally, he struggles to even think about driving. Mike needs company in the car to drive more than 15 minutes by himself.  When Mike found Next Step Service Dogs, it was a Godsend. He had done his research on a multitude of other organizations, but this was the right one...

Mike's path led him to Ruger, a most amazing black lab. Their bond was not instant but blossomed quickly. Ruger intuitively applies pressure to Mike's arm to prevent him from having flashbacks while driving and gently wakes him up from nightmares by laying across his legs. These behaviors were not trained, they just happened...

Mike is without a doubt Ruger's human and Ruger allows Mike to cope and live life in a more typical fashion.

Haley

Army

When I first started with Next Step I had my pet dog Gemma
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Haley

Army

When I first started with Next Step I had my pet dog Gemma who would begin training to become my service dog. As we approached our certification, something changed with Gemma and I later found out she had a brain tumor and could no longer complete training.
 
Gina and Sally let me know that they would work with me and help find the right service dog for me despite the unfortunate situation.
 
One day about six months ago Gina called me and asked me to look at a dog that her friend had.  His name is Eclipse. Eclipse was a working guide dog who was released from working through no fault of his own. Though I was told not to commit, I knew right away that there was something special about him.
 
Fast forward to today – I couldn’t imagine life without Eclipse! He really is my right hand man.  I will never be able to fully thank Next Step Service Dogs for giving me my life back.

In 2014 I suffered a head injury as well as an injury to my back and leg. I struggled for a couple years to try to overcome and realized that I just couldn’t do it alone anymore. This is when my doctor, knowing my love, recommended a service dog. I came to Next Step in August 2016 after being involved with another service dog organization.

Randy

Air Force

We are on our way back from NC.  Maddie and Wendy are passed out already

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Randy

Air Force

We are on our way back from NC.  Maddie and Wendy are passed out already and we are still sitting at the gate—Great travelers.  They are usually so rambunctious when they are together.  Thank you so much to NSSD for our amazing service dogs and the training that makes all this possible.  They have been model service animals this whole trip.  Dayne and I were a bit worried when they put us together in the same row.  But American did some finagling and got us the three seats all to us and the girls.