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Shelter To Soldier: Saving Two Lives At A time
By Vic Martin

Shelter To Soldier brings post combat veterans together with trained, rescue dogs to help both recover and move forward.

Kira the Service Dog is a Chocolate Lab/ Red Nose Pitbull mix. She is a former sheltered dog. She was rescued and trained by Shelter to Soldier and by volunteers of Specialty Dog Training. Her Handler is a Medically Retired Navy Mineman diagnosed with a Brain Injury, Severe Anxiety Disorder, Severe Depressive Disorder and PTSD. Kira and her handler are on a mission to change the world. Please visit sheltertosoldier.org to see how you can join us in our pledge to help sheltered dogs and Veterans in need.

Shelter to Soldier is a CA 501c3 nonprofit organization that adopts dogs from local shelters and trains them to become psychiatric service dogs for post-9/11 combat veterans suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) and/or other injuries associated with traumatic service experiences. Every day, 20 US veterans and 1 active duty service member are lost to suicide. That’s an average of one life lost every 69 minutes. The suicide rate among the nation’s military personnel has spiked this year – on average 22 per day, eclipsing the number of troops dying in battle and on pace to set a record annual high since the start of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan more than a decade ago. PTSD is a major problem for our men and women in uniform, and its effects last far and beyond the battlefield.

Every year, our nation sees approximately 7.6 million animals enter shelters. More than half of those animals are dogs, at 3.9 million every year. This year alone, 1.2 million dogs will be euthanized due to space, behavioral problems, or medical complications. Many great dogs are often overlooked at shelters for behavior issues such as protest when left alone, different levels of classic separation anxiety, unruly (non-aggressive) behaviors, barking, poor house manners, and housebreaking issues. Our team of professional dog trainers are experts in behavior modification, and in most cases, are able to modify unwanted behaviors and continue to train the dogs at the elite level of service work needed for their new job.

Kira is a loving 4-year old female Labrador/Pitbull mix. She was rescued just in time to allow her the opportunity to live a happy, loving and purposeful life. Kira is full of life, loves to work and has a huge heart! She is a high-energy girl that loves hikes, and to say she likes playing ball would be a big understatement! Kira was featured in the video produced by Petco and has received about 100,000 hits on that video, so she’s kind of a big deal. Kira met her new veteran dad, Vic, in May of 2014. They quickly fell in love and created a truly beautiful bond during Vic’s handling training course. Kira completed her training, passed her Canine Good Citizen Exam and her Psychiatric Service Dog Public Access Test with straight A’s! Shelter to Soldier honored Vic and Kira at their graduation held on November 10th, 2014. Graduation coverage thanks to CBS8 News

Not only is Vic being blessed with an amazing best friend, but Shelter to Soldier and Kira have been blessed by meeting Vic. He is the creator of our new Shelter to Soldier logo and also created our new logo for our profit dog training company partner, Specialty Dog Training. Vic and Kira are a match made in heaven and we are excited to share their incredible story with all of you. Vic has gained so much from our program and the love of his working service dog Kira and he has shared these feelings with our team. We would like to share some of what Vic has shared and experienced because we want each and every one of our supporters to know, you are truly helping us “save lives, two at a time”.

VIC MARTIN:

I am so blessed to have had Shelter to Soldier come into my life and welcome me with open, understanding and loving arms. It has given me purpose and confidence that I thought didn’t exist anymore. In my darkest of hours I could not have imagined such a light as the one shining from Kira’s smile and Shelter to Soldier’s huge heart. I cannot thank the sponsors, volunteers, Graham, Kyrie and all those so valiantly involved with savings lives, two at at time. Blessed.

I wish there was something I could say that was more than ‘thank you Shelter to Soldier.’ I am so very grateful for the gift you have given me. It is priceless. It is my life. You’re amazing.

The last few days have been really really rough. Kira has been right by my side and right now is laying at my feet while I am typing this. She also woke me up from a nightmare last night by jumping in bed with me and kissing my face. After I woke up she kept kissing me and then curled up under the covers and slept with me the rest of the morning. Pretty fantastic.

Last night was so much fun, and despite an environment (very busy and loud restaurant) that would normally be difficult (or impossible) for me to be in the middle of, you all protected me and embraced me. Because of you all I felt safe. My wife, who knows my limitations (sometimes better than I do) was amazed I did so well last night. Thank you all for a wonderfully inspiring night and thank you Graham & Kyrié for giving me life and purpose. Please mark me down as a “life saved”. To reiterate, I would in no way have been able to be in the environment of last night without all your love and support you all gave me, and I thank you.

Back to May 2018 Issue

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