Kyle & Merengue

A Light in the Darkness

Hope comes in many forms, but for U.S. Army veteran Kyle, it came in the form of an outgoing FSD Service Dog named Merengue.

After dedicating 18 years to the Army as a lieutenant colonel, Kyle found civilian life to be another uncharted battle. Struggling with the effects of PTSD and a brain tumor, Kyle and his family were in need of a lifeline. When they discovered Freedom Service Dogs (FSD), a spark of hope reignited for the first time in a long time.

Having grown up with dogs and knowing the life-changing impact service dogs can make, Kyle was thrilled at the prospect of having a service dog of his own. In the summer of 2023, he received the call he had anxiously awaited—FSD had found his perfect match.

Eager to embark on the next chapter of his life, Kyle traveled to the FSD facility to meet his new best friend, Merengue, a fun-loving black Labrador retriever with a big, goofy smile that could light up a room. The connection between them was instant and profound. “The way FSD matches dog to personality is amazing to me because he’s literally the dog version of myself! It’s quite amazing what they do,” Kyle marvels. From that moment, Kyle knew his life was forever changed.

The pair spent two weeks in placement class practicing Merengue’s custom-trained cues, learning important dog-handling skills, and attending group outings in public with FSD trainers and fellow graduates. The final step was passing the Assistance Dogs International (ADI) public access test—which they did with flying colors—before heading home together for the first time.

Now, Merengue accompanies Kyle everywhere he goes. Whether at fun family outings, large church gatherings, trips to the grocery store, fancy anniversary dinners, or simply relaxing at home, Merengue is a consistent presence. He was custom trained to assist Kyle both in and out of his home by retrieving items, opening doors, turning lights on and off, interrupting nightmares, supporting his balance, and more. “He is a blessing that has allowed me to be more involved in what my kids are doing and what’s going on in the community. I didn’t want to be in public at all before him, and now with him, it’s like having a constant best friend with me,” Kyle shares.

“Since getting Merengue, there’s been a night-and-day difference in my life.”

– U.S. Army veteran Kyle

Beyond restoring Kyle’s freedom and independence, Merengue has helped him rediscover parts of himself he thought were lost. “He has made a huge difference in my personality and has helped me be more open and outgoing. I look back to where I was and wonder how I functioned without him. He really is present and helps keep me grounded and calm. He knows me and sits with me when I’m struggling. It’s really changed my attitude and lookout on things, and that’s been the biggest difference. It’s been amazing,” Kyle says.

Merengue’s love and impact has transcended his relationship with Kyle. Inspired by Merengue’s zest for life and all those around them, Kyle has forged deeper connections with his loved ones and his newfound community at FSD. With a refreshing positive outlook, he has formed a stronger bond with his son that he never shared before Merengue came into their lives. He has also grown closer to the people within his hometown and with fellow veterans at the VA who share a mutual love for dogs—and for Merengue.

With renewed hope and Merengue by his side, Kyle looks forward to a future filled with possibilities, light, and love. “Supporting FSD changes lives—not just the handler’s life, but their families’ and communities’ too. It’s life-changing for everyone involved,” says Kyle’s wife, Caitlyn. “Any gesture to FSD, big or small, matters to so many people. It all trickles down and impacts lives. It’s definitely impacted ours.”

You can make a difference in the lives of veterans like Kyle by donating to Freedom Service Dogs today.

Learn more about applying for a Freedom Service Dog

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