A US Army veteran and his service dog met for the first time at Three Dog Bakery’s store in Kansas City, Missouri, USA, on February 13.
Taz, a two-year-old Austrian Shepherd, was trained to provide US Army veteran Brandon Garrison with daily assistance and companionship.
Garrison, 28, was an automatic logistical specialist with the Army’s 3rd Brigade, 10th Mountain Division, and was deployed to Afghanistan between 2006 and 2007. During that time, he suffered a traumatic brain injury (TBI), significant hearing loss and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
“I met Paul Chapa, the founder of FISH (Food Industry Serving Heroes) and we started talking about what FISH does for returning veterans,” Garrison said. “Then I was surprised to hear from Paul that I would be the recipient of the Three Dog Bakery Veterans Day promotion. And it’s happening just before my 29th birthday, so it’s a nice early birthday gift.”
Three Dog Bakery’s 2014 Veterans Day promotion raised US$5,000 via a percentage of its November 11, 2014, sales from its growing global bakery franchise network, grocery, mass and pet specialty retail outlets and threedog.com. In December, Three Dog Bakery presented a check to FISH that paid for training two service dogs. Garrison is the first recipient of the donation, which was designed to make a difference in the lives of returning military personnel who benefit from the highly specialized service dogs. He will receive a one-year supply of Three Dog Bakery food and treats as well.
Veterans face myriad challenges that can be aided with the use of a service dog, from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) to immobility. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports the US has 1.6 million veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts, 21% of whom suffer a service-connected disability. Service dogs perform a multitude of tasks to help veterans find a new level of independence in their post-combat life. People paired with service dogs show significant improvements psychologically, socially â€“ even economically.
Garrison says Taz will be a valuable addition in his life. While receiving support for his wartime injuries, Garrison is coping with his father’s terminal illness. His own children live in another state, so Garrison says the companionship of a service dog is extremely important to him. And because of his injuries, he also suffers from vertigo and uses a cane. Having Taz to help with his balance and retrieve items for him is another plus.
Service dogs are in high demand, with wait times up to three years. Training begins when the dogs are young. These highly trained canines work on average eight to 10 years before they retire.
According to Chapa, Taz has been trained to respond to certain commands, in English and German, due to her breed.
“This is a highly intelligent and full-service dog. She will be able to go everywhere with Brandon, from restaurants to airplanes,” Chapa says. “Brandon is just one of thousands of returning veterans who deserve this type of support.”