Veteran Stories

Read these firsthand accounts of the unconditional love, service and companionship Canine Companions assistance dogs provide to US veterans through the Wounded Veterans Initiative:

Calvin, Iraq War Veteran, and Service Dog Chesney

One Team, Two Heroes: The Wounded Veterans Initiative

Matthew Keil and Service Dog Gus

Matthew, a US Army Veteran from Colorado, enjoys traveling, hunting, martial arts and other sporting events. Matthew and his wife Tracy were married just six weeks when Matthew sustained severe combat injuries in Iraq, rendering him quadriplegic with only the use of his left arm. During his hospital stay he heard about Canine Companions and decided to apply for a service dog.

During an intense two-week training program at Canine Companions, Matthew was matched with Gus III, a handsome yellow Labrador/Golden Retriever cross trained to respond to approximately 50 commands.

Matthew said, “My biggest struggle has been needing someone else to do things for me. I fell in love with Gus the first night he came home with us. No more do I have to depend on others all the time — and that means a lot!” There were only a couple of things Matthew could do by himself since the injury but now he said, “Gus allows me to be so much more independent. It’s easier to get around and having a buddy by my side to do things with has changed our lives.”

 Major David Rozelle and CCI Service Dog Domi

"I gave my last command as a cavalry officer, I thought, to secure the area and evacuate the casualties. Unfortunately, I was the casualty," Major David Rozelle, US Army says.

This wasn't his last command. Just 18 months post injury, he became the first US soldier with an amputation to return to the same battlefield since the Civil War.

'I wanted to prove to myself I could do it. What I've learned is that it means a lot to my men to see me --missing my leg-- and still commanding," shares Maj. Rozelle.

Now,  Maj. Rozelle is an inspiration to cadets, but he's not up there alone. Canine Companions Service dog Domi is by his side.

"The first time Domi joined me for a formal address and ceremony, she fell right into formation. She kept perfect parade rest during my address and when I gave her the command, she marched off the field with me in perfect time," says Maj. Rozelle. "I was so proud, I got down on my knes and loved on her."

"Sometimes, I have to show weakness and rest my leg on crutches. On those days, Domi's help is absolutely critical." Maj. Rozelle continues.

Domi's there all the time----bringing him his leg from across the room or making his three boys laugh as she tries to shake the kitten off her back. Domi has changed Maj. Rozelle's life.

"I've spent ten years at war. I've served three tours of duty. And I've lost my leg. I've had some pretty bad days," Maj. Rozelle continues, "but I haven't had a bad day since Domi came into my life. From the moment she bounces out of her crate wagging her tale every morning to when my boys tell her goodnight--I've never been so happy before," Major Rozelle shares.

Jason and Napal

On a special operation mission with the United States Air Force in South America in 1999, Jason broke his back when his vehicle flipped after being ambushed and crushed the lower half of his body.

 A year and a half ago Jason received Canine Companions Service Dog Napal.

"I couldn't stand having to rely on someone else to take care of me," Jason says. "Being in special ops, they don't teach you very much humility. When you have that mentality, and that's the training that's been brought to you, to really humble yourself to have other people help you is extremely tough." he continues. "But I'm telling you, it's so much easier for a dog to do it."

"In fact out of everything I've done to try and improve my life, nothing's even come close to getting my service dog Napal," Jason concludes.



 Jason with CCI Service Dog Napal

Andrew Pike, Iraq War Veteran, and Service Dog Yazmin

Andrew was an Army Specialist with the 82nd Airborne when he was injured in Iraq. Watch the video to the right or read more.
Nico Marcolongo, Iraq War Veteran, and Facility Dog Tali

Nico served the United States Marine Corps for 14 years. After he returned from his second Iraq deployment in 2007, Nico was diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). The experience prompted him to dedicate his life to serving injured troops. Now, Nico runs a program through the Challenged Athletes Foundation called Operation Rebound, which provides post-rehabilitation support to American service members who have suffered permanent physical injuries in recent conflicts.

Nico's wife, Lisa, has also dedicated her life to serving others. She works at a hospice and skilled nursing facilities where many of her clients are military veterans. Together, Lisa and Nico decided to apply for a CCI Facility Dog to offer comfort to their clients.

Nico and Lisa Marcolongo with
CCI Facility Dog Tali
Now, a sweet, black Labrador/Golden Retriever cross named Tali regularly brings smiles to injured troops in San Diego County. She brings a sense of calm to members of a PTSD support group in the evenings and provides a welcome distraction to hospice patients during the day. On weekends, she takes part in athletic events with injured military athletes. She is also a CCI ambassador, providing an example to injured troops of how a CCI assistance dog can make life a little easier.

"My goal is to hopefully help the healing process for veterans coming home," Nico explained. "I don't want anyone else to suffer."

Jeffrey Adams, Iraq War Veteran, and Service Dog Sharif
In November 2004, Jeffrey was on patrol in Baghdad when a roadside bomb was detonated just 10 feet from him. As a result, 97% of his left leg had to be amputated.

Since then Jeffrey has recovered from his injury and walks with a prosthetic titanium leg. "I didn’t think I needed an assistance dog," said Jeffrey. "Then I saw them in action, helping other people with disabilities. I thought it was pretty amazing. I still didn’t think I needed one though. But my wife says I’m stubborn and told me to follow up. So, I asked around and applied to Canine Companions for Independence."

"Having a CCI assistance dog has really changed my life,” shared First Lieutenant Jeffrey Adams as he graduated from CCI Team Training with his new service dog Sharif.

Jeffrey and Sharif
photo by Michael Livera
  Jeffrey Adams and CCI
Service Dog Sharif

Watch an interview with Jeffrey
Read Jeffrey's story in the NY Times
“When I first heard about CCI, I thought I don’t need a canine companion. Now I know how wonderful it will be and there are new possibilities for me that I didn’t expect,” shares Jeffrey.

Jay Huston, Army Veteran and Service Dog Timo

Jay has undergone 10 surgeries for spinal injuries after he hit the ground hard from a parachute malfunction eight years ago at Fort Benning, Ga. Jay retired from the Army in 2004 after 20 years of service, but he didn’t stop serving his country. He now works as a Senior CBRNE Analyst at the U.S. Northern Command in Colorado Springs. (CBRNE stands for Chemical,Biological, Radiological, Nuclear, and High-Yield Explosives.) Jay helps prevent terrorists from using Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMDs) in the U.S.

veteran, Jay, Timo

Read how CCI Service Dog Timo helps Jay live more independently.
Questions?  Please email us or call 800-572-BARK (2275).  

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