Meet Our Newest Graduates: SPRING 2021

Newest teams tackling the world together

Our first placement class of 2021 was filled with a remarkable array of clients, including two veterans, two individuals with mobility challenges, and a young adult with autism. After two weeks of advanced training designed to customize each dog’s skills to the specific needs of their new handler, these teams have returned to their homes in California, Colorado, and Washington, ready to take on the responsibility and joy of starting a new life with their service dog by their side.

Cindy & Finley
Cindy is a 24-year veteran of the U.S. Army, having served as an explosive ordnance disposal specialist, firefighter, medic, and supply. She lives in Colorado Springs, Colorado, where she provides resources and peer support to other veterans. Cindy was matched with her second FSD service dog, Finley, after the retirement of her first service dog, Skeeter. She is looking forward to having Finley’s companionship and assistance in crowded spaces, as well as brace-and-balance support during long outings. This team is sponsored by the Salah Foundation. 

Jay & Phantom
Jay is a bright young adult with a grateful and tender heart who had a dream of getting a service dog. He harnessed the power of autism to pursue his dream with passion. Jay researched and selected FSD as a good fit and bravely left home in sunny Southern California to meet Phantom in the face of a Colorado blizzard. Jay, who says he sets his calendar around “Shark Week” viewing on the Discovery Channel, is a natural with animals and aspires to study marine biology with the more immediate goal of working as a veterinary tech. Phantom will help Jay stay present and calm in new situations and provide a comforting blanket of support when life’s stress is getting the upper hand.

Kathryn & Nova
Diagnosed with a rare form of bone cancer at age 9, Kathryn embraced the struggle of a young life derailed to thrive and establish herself in a career as a nurse case manager at Children’s Hospital Colorado. She is dedicated to turning her difficult life experience into caring for her patients and family. Nova is a graduate of FSD’s first puppy litter who will be working to keep Kathryn as independent as possible in her walking and helping out with mom duties like laundry and picking up socks. This team is sponsored by The Estate of De Anne Marie Hull c/o Christine Hardy, Trustee.

Kenji & Bonus
Six years ago, the law of gravity literally upended Kenji’s life when he took a terrible fall from a hammock suspended 20 feet above the mountain rocks below. Making a truly remarkable recovery from a C5-C6 spinal cord injury, Kenji has not let a bit of life get away. He lives independently and works as an editor for a scientific journal, including polishing and perfecting papers originally written in Japanese. Kenji and his FSD service dog, Bonus, are learning to read each other and develop a bond using the most unique and sometimes frustrating language of all: dog body language! Kenji is looking to Bonus for help with retrieving dropped items, opening doors, and getting help when he finds himself in a jam. This team is sponsored by Dr. Marty Pets.

Kim & Gravy
The dance of life took a hard misstep for Kim when she had to let go of the service dog life after her first FSD dog developed deafness. Having tasted the independence gained with a solid partner, Kim is eager to open her heart and home to her new partner, Gravy. Kim, who lives in Washington, brings a strong set of handling skills to the plate, along with a remarkable set of organizational skills, having raised eight children into adulthood. She is active in her church and has not let any mobility limitations from the effects of arthritis limit her passion for crafting and travel. In addition to hopping onboard for cruises and trips to visit Kim’s children, Gravy will assist with chores, such as retrieving bottles of water from the fridge, finding Kim’s husband when greater assistance is needed, and opening doors.

Walt & Coral
Walt is a veteran of the U.S. Air Force who works as a professional counselor and hopes to use this career path to support veterans who have post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). He has been matched with professional therapy dog Coral, a sweet golden retriever who is drawn to people and whose gentle demeanor warms the heart of everyone she meets. Coral will help Walt build rapport with clients by comforting them during difficult moments and bringing a box of tissues when they become tearful. Walt, his teenage daughter, and his bearded dragon are all looking forward to welcoming Coral into their lives. This team is sponsored by Sierra Nevada Corporation.

Congratulations to all these teams and to all the hearts and hands that have made these matches possible!

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