ABC Dog Training Student Helps Veterans With PTSD
Russell Steed is currently enrolled in Animal Behavior College’s (ABC) Dog Trainer Program. The U.S. Navy Veteran has embarked on a second career training service dogs and founded a program in his Benton, Arkansas community, I Got Your Six (no affiliation with the national coalition).
ABC: What drove your interest in training service dogs?
Russell: I got injured while in the Navy [from 1982 to 1992] and spent several years dealing with night sweats, microseizures and migraines. Last year, I was diagnosed with PTSD.
When I would have nightmares, my son’s westie [West Highland Terrier] would breathe in my face and wake me up. This went on for quite some time. My wife was the first to notice that I was much calmer and suggested I get a service dog.
Well, I went to my doctor and found out that the VA [U.S. Department of Veteran’s Affairs] doesn’t provide service dogs for PTSD, but only for veterans with seeing, hearing and mobility challenges. Hopefully, the Puppies Assisting Wounded Servicemembers Act of 2017 (P.A.W.S. Act) will change this. If it becomes a law, the VA will be required to provide PTSD-service dogs to veterans. Since I needed a service dog, I decided to train one myself. That’s when I got Jasper.
ABC: Tell me about Jasper.
Russell: He’s a Poodle I got when he was three months old. I decided to train him for therapy and by the time he was seven months old, he was the youngest service dog in Arkansas to be trained. He picks up my keys, retrieves my meds and many other things. He motivates me and senses when I’m stressed or when I’m about to have a migraine.
ABC: What was your ‘Aha’ moment or point when you decided to embark on a second career training service dogs?
Russell: My wife and I were at a restaurant and Jasper was lying on the floor next to my feet. He always knew what to do and just did it. A light bulb went off in my head; I’m supposed to train service dogs to help veterans suffering from PTSD. This is my passion. Right now, I’m training a puppy, a [Siberian] Husky-mix who is three months old.
ABC: Why did you enroll in ABC’s Dog Trainer Program?
Russell: A professional certification credential is important because I want to be taken seriously as a dog trainer. It was equally important to me to find a dog training program that was structured and that I could commit and do from start to finish. ABC is just that.
ABC: Tell me about I Got Your 6.
Russell: My goal is to put a service dog in the hands of veterans with PTSD. We hosted an adoption event a while back in Benton where nine dogs from a local animal control and humane society were adopted. I’d like to eventually open a school and train PTSD-service dogs for veterans or anyone else in need.
Animal Behavior College is a military-friendly school. To learn how you can use your veteran education benefits toward our Dog Trainer Program, please visit our Dog Trainer Classroom Program.