On May 6, we held our annual Graduation and Volunteer Appreciation Celebration. Twenty-nine dogs graduated, including two companion dogs, eighteen service dogs, seven breeding dogs, and two CIA K-9s. Congratulations to all our graduating teams!
This year, Kim Wiesniewski shared her family's story for our Graduation Keynote. Kim's husband, John, is partnered with SSD Slate. Through her story, you'll see how service dogs change more lives than just their partner's.
Where do I even begin?From the moment John found out SSD Slate was going to be his partner, all our lives have changed in more positive ways than anyone can imagine. Neck, back, and hip issues, depression, anxiety, and panic attacks had left John a prisoner to himself, but Slate has helped John to conquer tasks that seemed unattainable, and he has given him the confidence to be himself again. Each day is a new challenge, but Slate gives John the support both physically and mentally to move forward easier. It's an amazing feeling to see the changes in John and see the bond between him and Slate.
John spent many years in the US Navy, with his career ending in a medical discharge. John loved being in the US Navy and I know he misses it every day. Slate has helped him to be involved in the US Navy Sea Cadets, supporting our son Dominik. They work together with the Belleauwood Seadevils unit out of Chambersburg, PA. I see his passion for the military being passed down to our son with every drill and parade they attend. Before Slate came to us, this passion seemed nonexistent. Sharing these experiences with his son and forming such a strong bond with Dominik has been wonderful to watch and fills me with such pride.
So many summer vacations normally end up being just the kids and me because the chaos, stress, and crowds are too much for John to handle. Last summer Slate, John, and a close friend made a surprise visit during our two-week Myrtle Beach vacation! This was probably the most memorable vacation ever! We all spent much needed quality time with John and the memories made during that time will be cherished forever. It was so nice to see John relaxed and enjoying himself without any care, with Slate by his side.
Slate may be John's partner, but he has a way with everyone he meets. He has comforted me through my mother's death with kisses, licked away my 12-year-old daughter's tears when the girls at school were being mean, rests his head on my son's knee when he wants to share the big comfy chair, happily greets my oldest daughter at the front door when she comes to visit, and without question he sleeps in the recliner on a daily basis with John so he's never alone.
It's easy to see that SSD Slate benefits all of us. He is undoubtedly family.
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