John, a Vietnam Veteran, enlisted when he was in the tenth grade. Since his service, John has lived with agoraphobia and night terrors. But everything changed when he was matched with Bloke, a rescued Weimaraner mix. Now, John says that Bloke is the watchdog of his mental health.
Through Tony La Russa’s Animal Rescue Foundation’s Pets and Vets program, Veterans like John are matched with rescue dogs like Bloke to enter psychiatric service dog training together. Dog candidates are evaluated based on the rescue dog’s personality and the Veteran’s specific needs. They need to be a solid match inside and outside the classroom. Even though Bloke’s origin story is unknown, our rescue team recognized his unique potential to provide love, security, and improved wellness to a Veteran. When John first met Bloke, he noticed how splendid he was right away. Bloke jumped on the bed to be next to John the very first night, and they’ve been bonded ever since.
Due to John’s agoraphobia, he has trouble leaving his home. His wife, Kandy, supported their journey by attending the classes and co-training Bloke. “In my 40 years of traveling with Kandy, I know I’m really fortunate to have her. But I’ve never had a sidekick like Bloke,” says John. “It’s a blessing to have a service dog. They are better and less compromising than medication. They warm your heart, and you’re getting a lot of support.” John and Bloke recently graduated as a fully certified psychiatric service dog team. John commented that he often feels as if Bloke can read his mind. “We all need [the] affection of a dog; dogs have been with humans for over 30,000 years. And I’ve now learned with Bloke and the Pets and Vets program that dogs can even become the custodians of our mental health.”
John and Bloke greatly appreciate all the staff, volunteers, and donors who supported them along their journey. Thanks to private donations, adoption fees, veterinary wellness and training supplies are provided free of charge to the Veteran-dog teams. Through ARF’s Pets and Vets Program, John and Bloke each found their new purpose in life – supporting each other and effectively “Saving Both Ends of the Leash®.
To submit your ARF-adopted pet’s story and photos, fill out our online submission form.