Veteran Stories

Firsthand accounts of the unconditional love, service and companionship Canine Companions assistance dogs provide to US veterans through the Wounded Veterans Initiative.

Calvin & Chesney

Calvin, Iraq War Veteran & Service Dog, Chesney

One Team.
Two Heroes.

The Wounded Veterans Initiative

Matthew Keil & Service Dog, Gus

"My biggest struggle has been needing someone else to do things for me."

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 & 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."

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 knees 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 tail every morning to when my boys tell her goodnight--I've never been so happy before," Major Rozelle shares.

Questions? Please email us, or call:

800.572.BARK (2275)

Copyright © 2014 Canine Companions for Independence, Inc. All rights reserved.