Meet our 2022 graduates

October 23 was a day worth celebrating for many reasons, as hundreds of FSD clients, staff members, volunteers, and supporters came together for the first time since 2019 to honor our graduates. Several graduates shared stories of how their lives are being transformed by custom-trained service dogs, and guests also were treated to tales from an FSD puppy raiser, a service dog demonstration, and the premiere of new video, full of puppy cuteness. Read on to meet the FSD class of 2022.

Shelby & Lynx

Shelby is a member of FSD’s Client Services team, a country music fan, and a social worker who graduated with professional therapy dog Lynx. Shelby and Lynx have joined forces to provide in-home animal-assisted therapy to children and youths who are working on building confidence and developing empathy and relationship skills.

MaKayla & Antero

MaKayla is a young woman with cerebral palsy who recently graduated with a degree in psychology. Service dog Antero assists MaKayla by retrieving her crutches and phone, opening doors, tugging off her socks, and accompanying MaKayla to her job at a Boys & Girls Club. This team is sponsored by Dr. Marty Pets.

Uri & Pesto

Uri is a young woman living with arthrogryposis multiplex congenita, a rare condition causing joint contractures that limit flexibility and motion. Service dog Pesto helps her by picking up dropped items, opening and closing doors, tugging off clothing, and boosting Uri’s confidence when they head off to college next year. This team is sponsored by Quick-Tag.

Patricia & Teller

Patricia is a retired professor of social work and a community activist who loves music and has multiple sclerosis. Service dog Teller assists Patricia by retrieving dropped items, opening and closing doors, and creating space around her at peace marches and concerts. This team is sponsored by Quick-Tag.

Kayli & Oakley

Kayli is a young woman with autism who works as a manager at a nonprofit organization that shelters victims of domestic abuse. She enjoys training her two rescue dogs and caring for foster pets. Service dog Oakley helps Kayli by creating space around her in public, providing deep pressure, and interrupting stress behaviors.

Seth & Echo

Seth is a 9-year-old boy with autism and ADHD who loves playing video games. Skilled companion dog Echo is helping Seth navigate the growing pains and sensitivities of being 9 and living in a busy household by providing deep pressure, companionship, and the energy to keep up with this active young boy.

Tim & Cypress

Husband, river-rafting guide, and U.S. Army and National Guard veteran Tim lives with service-related disabilities and works at a VA facility serving meals to homeless veterans. Service dog Cypress wakes Tim from nightmares and helps to relieve other PTSD symptoms, with the goal of increasing Tim’s independence. This team is sponsored by Lisa Martin and John Ross.

Aaron & Grizzly

Aaron is a veteran of the U.S. Navy and a graduate student in the field of human services, trauma, and addiction who hopes to work with fellow veterans. Service dog Grizzly will assist Aaron with the symptoms of PTSD by helping to make him more comfortable in crowds and waking him from nightmares. She will also help fulfill his love for sweet (and at times goofy) chocolate Labs. This team is sponsored by Joan Ouderkirk.

James & Zena

James is a husband, father, and U.S. Marine Corps veteran whose right hand was amputated at the middle of his forearm. Service dog Zena will help James manage his daily needs by retrieving dropped items, soda cans, and water bottles, and tugging James’s jacket on and off in a pinch. When duty calls, she will head to the mountains, accompanying him in his work as a ski patrol member in the winter and at a fly-fishing shop in the summer. This team is sponsored by Dr. Marty Pets.

Sophia & Clarita

Sophia is a wife, mother, grandmother, and U.S. Navy veteran who has PTSD along with significant back issues that cause mobility challenges. She graduated in June 2022 with FSD service dog Clarita, who will assist Sophia by creating space around her in crowds to help relieve anxiety, waking her from nightmares, and retrieving dropped items such as a phone, wallet, or keys. This team is sponsored by the Patterson Foundation.

Zander & Verde

Zander is a husband, father, dog dad, and U.S. Army veteran who works for the Department of Veteran Affairs. He lives with PTSD, as well as spinal arthritis and deterioration. Service dog Verde will help manage Zander’s daily needs by interrupting symptoms of PTSD, creating space around him in crowds, waking him from nightmares, and accompanying him on family outings, including sailing. This team is sponsored by the Ken W. Davis Foundation.

Nika & Estes

Nika is a U.S. Army veteran who served in the War on Terror in Afghanistan and Iraq. Service dog Estes helps Nika with her symptoms of PTSD by lying on her lap to provide calming physical pressure and helping her feel more comfortable in public, in social settings, and when driving. Nika is looking forward to sharing her world with Estes as they explore together and enjoy mountain hikes. This team is sponsored by The Gary and Leslie Howard Foundation.

Terry & Raisin

Terry is a U.S. Marine Corps veteran with PTSD who enjoys volunteering at the American Legion, listening to ‘60s folk music, and hiking in the mountains near his home. In addition to being Terry’s four-legged battle buddy, Raisin assists his partner by retrieving dropped items and creating space around Terry in crowds. This team is sponsored by The Dixie Foundation.

Kaitlin & Soleil

Kaitlin is a sophomore in high school who lives with a rare genetic mutation that causes neurocognitive disabilities, as well as visual impairment and epilepsy. Service dog Soleil helps Kaitlin by interrupting anxious behaviors or outbursts, redirecting her attention in stressful situations, and providing calming sensory input by resting or leaning on Kaitlin. This team is sponsored by Gilda Kaplan.

Claire & Indie

Claire is a young woman with autism who enjoys movies and playing sports, and is eagerly anticipating her upcoming marriage to her high school sweetheart. Indie is Claire’s first successor dog, following in the much-loved pawprints of Freedom Service Dog Frosty. Indie will help provide reassurance and grounding to Claire, as well as interruption when Claire feels anxious and deep-pressure, full-body cover to calm her.

Laz & Cranberry

Laz is a bright, engaging 16-year-old with a dazzling smile. Service dog Cranberry is helping him build towards greater independence by retrieving dropped items, opening doors, and distracting him from emotional outbursts with a face full of puppy kisses. Laz loves admiring fast cars and driving his side-by-side ATV when he’s not multitasking video games and Cranberry cuddles on the couch.

Marshall & Bacon

Marshall is a law school student, avid skier, and active-duty member of the U.S. Army Special Forces who lives with PTSD and pain from a fractured back and other injuries. Service dog Bacon assists Marshall by retrieving items, creating space around him at school and in crowds, and helping him feel more comfortable in public. This team is sponsored by AnnieMac Home Mortgage.

Katie & Cadence

Katie is a vocational rehabilitation counselor and U.S. Army veteran living with PTSD and limited mobility due to hip and lower-back conditions. Service dog Cadence is the successor to Katie’s first FSD service dog, Tatum, who has retired and is enjoying his golden years in Katie’s home. Cadence assists Katie by retrieving her cane and other items, waking her from nightmares, and creating space around her in crowds. This team is sponsored by AnnieMac Home Mortgage.

Will & Fig

Will is a recent high school graduate with autism who enjoys coding and hanging out with all three of his Labrador retrievers. As Will pursues his education in computer science, service dog Fig will help him feel more comfortable around peers at technology school, interrupt anxious behaviors, act as an alarm clock by nudging him awake, and give Will more confidence in social environments.

Christie & Chorizo

Christie’s total left leg and hip amputation haven’t stopped her from living a busy and active life, including working a full-time job and riding adaptive bikes with her husband. Service dog Chorizo assists Christie by retrieving items, helping load her wheelchair into the family van, and giving her the confidence to go wherever she wants, whenever she wants, on her own.

Adam & Sherpa

Adam is a young man with autism and a neurocognitive disorder who sought out a service dog to be his new best friend. Sherpa, his stylish canine companion, accompanies Adam to high school, sports events, and everything in between. Adam’s job at a doggy day care prepared him for all the responsibilities of keeping Sherpa in tip-top shape. Known for his sweet, sincere face, Sherpa provides soothing deep-pressure therapy, alerts to Adam’s anxiety cues, and creates space around Adam in crowds when the going gets tough. This team is sponsored by Dr. Marty Pets.

Alex & Mink

U.S. Marine Corps veteran Alex graduated with his first FSD successor dog, Mink, in November 2022. Mink helps Alex deal with his PTSD, fear of crowds, and aversion to interacting with people by calming his anxiety, nudging him in crowds to let him know he is not alone, and comforting him after nightmares. Alex’s first FSD service dog and battle buddy, Pastel, is continuing his distinguished service in retirement as a loyal canine companion. This team is sponsored by AnnieMac Home Mortgage.

Brendan & Hagrid

Brendan is a special education teacher whose talents include improv comedy and making music. He has myotonic dystrophy, a genetic disorder that affects the muscles and other body systems. In 2021, Brendan graduated with skilled companion dog Hagrid, who is Brendan’s first-ever dog and has been helping Brendan stay steady on stairs and walks around the neighborhood. In December 2022, they returned to FSD placement class for a skills refresher so that Hagrid could become a full-fledged service dog and accompany Brendan on vacations and to monthly open mic gigs at his favorite coffee shop.

Carina & Kura

Carina is a talented young trainer who is excited to continue building upon the skills of her new service dog, Kura. Carina first learned about service dogs by puppy raising for another organization and came to Freedom Service Dogs in search of a custom-trained partner. Kura is an expert at reminding Carina of her stress cues, as well as providing targeted deep-pressure therapy to help de-escalate stressful situations. They are both looking forward to exploring the many world-renowned museums of their home city and being more independent while out in public.

Carolyn & Nacho

Carolyn is a young woman living with a heart condition that significantly affects her mobility and endurance. When not cultivating new cultures in the lab (she’s finishing her Ph.D. in virology), she loves exploring the art, culture, and jazz scene of Louisiana. She graduated with Nacho, a black Lab with a unique vocal styling who brings his comments to the serious focus on his work. In addition to providing laughs with his goofy antics, Nacho helps Carolyn maintain independence by picking up dropped items, opening doors, and retrieving essential items in a pinch. She is excited to welcome him into the family fold with beagle Remmy, the lovable show dog, and Sam, the giant house bunny. This team is sponsored by Dr. Marty Pets.

LeoLuis & Biscotti

LeoLuis is a veteran of the U.S. Army who last served as a culinary specialist. He lives in Iowa with his wife but still visits family in his native Guam. LeoLuis graduated with Biscotti, a sweet and steady companion who helps retrieve dropped items, creates space around LeoLuis in crowded places, and provides support during migraine attacks. This team is sponsored by the Ken W. Davis Foundation.

Interested in sponsoring one of our future teams? Contact Shanda Griebel at [email protected] or 303-922-6231 ext. 240.

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