As we celebrate Memorial Day, we would like to educate the public about our friends over at Next Step Service Dogs in San Diego, CA. We encourage you to take the time today to read about this awesome organization, the veterans they help, and why it is so important we respect and honor those who have served our country. Enjoy!
Next Step Service Dogs
Providing Service Dogs for Active Military, Veterans, and First Responders with PTSD.
Next Step Service Dogs is a nonprofit 501(c)3 organization that assists, employs, and empowers veterans, active military, and first responders who have PTSD, TBI, and/or mobility limitations. The training program trains amazing service dogs to greatly improve quality of life for each client.
Service dogs greatly improve veterans’ quality of life, independence, and sense of being unconditionally loved, respected and protected by a service dog. Next Step Service Dogs are often rescue dogs trained to perform specific tasks and worked as described by the American Disabilities Act (ADA).
Next Step Service Dogs trains dogs to be a psychiatric service dogs. Standard service dog tasks include getting help, turning on lights, balance support, and retrieval [to name a few]. Next Step Service Dogs trains additional tasks such as helping a veteran gauge the safety of their surroundings; allowing them to venture into public places without constantly scanning for snipers, hidden bombs and other dangers. Our service dogs reassure our clients; allowing them to learn trust and care again – and maybe even smile for the first time in months, or years. Next Step hires veterans as trainers. This further enhances the bonds and effectiveness of our trainer-dog-veteran teams.
This amazing organization is a unique service dog organization, as their dogs are trained specifically to help veterans with “invisible disabilities”. What does this mean exactly? An invisible disability for a veteran is considered Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, or PTSD, including traumatic brain injuries.
NSSD is special because while they do have a program in place to train dogs to be matched with a veteran, they will work directly with the veteran at their own pace to accommodate their distinct set of needs. A training program is individualized to the veteran, making it completely custom to them. Next Step Service Dogs is also certified by the Assistance Dogs International, one of only 15 in the country. A service dog gives veterans a purpose, creating a chance to a live a higher quality of life and to gain independence.
Service Dog in Training
While Quinn might look like just another adorable puppy, think again! Quinn is one of Next Step Service Dogs’ newest puppy in training. Quinn is a 5-month-old golden doodle puppy who is training to become a Service Dog for a Veteran in need.
Quinn currently resides in Del Mar, CA, with his handler, Allie. You can follow all of their adventures by following Quinn on Instagram!
Puppy raisers help to expose the puppy to a variety of situations, environments, smells, sights and sounds! Exposing the puppy to so many possibilities and people helps to socialize him and get him ready to become a focused service dog for a veteran in the future. Puppies in training like Quinn will stay with their puppy raiser for 8 months or so, until they are a year old and ready to move up with a senior trainer to begin official service work. It isn’t until the 12-15-month mark that a service dog in training is ready to be considered to be partnered with a veteran, based on their temperament, obedience, and personality. A dog will officially become a service dog around the 2-year mark once completing training.
Nature’s Select is proud to supply Quinn with our Select High Protein Recipe, as it contains the necessary nutrients he needs in order to grow strong and perform his duties in training properly so he may become the best service dog possible.
The NSSD Process
Matching with a Veteran
The selection process for a veteran begins with a veteran filling out an online application, answering 8-10 questions. Next Step Service Dogs begin the evaluation process upon review in which they send a full application to the veteran who is interested, followed by a phone call and in-person interview.
Something important to consider: before a veteran comes to Next Step Service Dogs, they already have a variety of tools to live a healthy lifestyle. They have the necessary tools in their toolbox, consisting of therapy, counseling, and/or medications. To a veteran in need, a service dog is yet another powerful tool in their toolbox. When a veteran comes to NSSD, they are quite literally taking the “next step” and looking for a service dog that will give them both purpose and confidence.
The pairing process can take some time, as it is personalized to the veteran’s needs. One dog might be a better fit than another, and that is completely normal. NSSD is committed to finding the perfect match for a veteran, and will work with them throughout a dog’s lifetime to ensure everything goes smoothly. While there may be bumps along the road at times, they are a community and a family of people who truly support veterans and service dogs.
A veteran typically works with a service dog between 3 and 4 months before they commit to moving in together and becoming officially partners.
A New Beginning
Perhaps the most rewarding part about the process of matching a service dog with a veteran in need, is seeing the relationship blossom into something extraordinary. Witnessing the success stories of veterans and their service dogs, working together to become independent is something special. Seeing a veteran who pre-service dog was nervous, scared, sad, struggling in public around crowds, to seeing a veteran post-service dog become strong, confident, independent, and determined is priceless.
Respecting Our Veterans
While the public sees veterans as normal people that look like the rest of us, it’s important for the public to understand that they have so much going on inside of them. The things they have been through and witnessed during their time of service at war are often too difficult to talk about in the open. They cannot share their stories on a daily basis, and often struggle internally as a result. It is important that the public respects veterans and be mindful of their space and their service dog, which is no different than respecting someone in a wheel chair.
It is essential to understand the importance of respecting a service dog that is working for his or her owner.
Remember, you should never pet a service dog! Why? If someone were to pet the dog or try talking to the service dog, the dog would become distracted and might miss an important cue from their owner, being unable to help their owner. Service dogs have complete public access and are trained for our service men and women, and we as a public must always respect and honor that fact.
Perhaps the best part about veterans having a service dog is that it allows them to initiate conversation with a stranger, allowing them to grow with independence and confidence. By becoming more social through a service dog, veterans then become more engaging, more confident, and begin to a life a happier life overall!
Next Step Service Dogs helps around 25-30 veterans every year. They train 25-30 dogs per year, depending on volunteers and resources.
Interested in learning more about Next Step Service Dogs?
Please visit their website for volunteer information, donation instructions, and upcoming events.
Veterans Apply Here:
P.S. Don't forget to Follow Quinn's adventures!
Happy Memorial Day to all of our Veterans who have served past, present, and future!