Sign In

Service dogs benefit veterans

April 5, 2020

When Ryan Bodge retired from the Air Force after serving nearly three decades, he had an urge to continue the fight.

Bodge spent 27 years in the Security Armed Forces in the ground troop and took eight tours to Iraq and Afghanistan.

He retired in early March as lieutenant colonel and is a Purple Heart recipient.

Upon returning home from each deployment, he found himself counting down the days until he was able to fight once more.

“After multiple deployments, I was realizing that my time at home was just temporary, and I was extremely focused on deploying, and that’s all I was dreaming for,” Bodge said.

“I loved being home for the purposes of my family, but the days at home were counted and they were subtracted getting ready to get back to the mission.”

He said he deployed so much he believed the pattern to be his life’s purpose.

During a 2006 trip to Iraq, he sustained a brain injury from a blast, he said.

While he was able to rehab and continue deploying, Bodge said he still required assistance.

Nearing retirement, he went on the hunt for tools and resources that could benefit him psychologically.

A therapist suggested he get a service dog, an idea he didn’t initially take seriously.

After attending training practices, he decided on Valor Service Dogs.

Valor is a Tampa, Fla.-based company started by Carol Lansford that seeks to help wounded veterans and first-responders.

Plans are being considered to provide the service to people who have been sexually assaulted.

With only a year left in the service, and with permission from the Air Force, Bodge obtained Bradley, a golden retriever born in May 2016, from Valor in January of last year.

“Bradley has forced me to slow down,” Bodge said. “Since I received Bradley, I’ve seen colors that I’ve never seen. I’ve smelled smells that I never smelled because prior to that I was in such a mode that I had a lot of tunnel vision and he forces you to be present.”

His canine companion saved his life and helped him regain his independence, he said.

“Bradley has changed my look at life. Bradley has reduced dark days,” Bodge said. “Do I still have them? Absolutely. Are they shortened because of him? Yes. He is more in tune with me than I realize.”

Without his pet, he said he would probably still have the “thirst for getting back in the fight.”

The dog is trained in all mobility measures, as well as post-traumatic stress disorder. Bradley opens doors, picks up phones and remotes off of the floor and opens drawers.

Bodge said Bradley alerts him to his disorder. For instance, when his knee starts to bounce or he begins to fidget with hands unknowingly as part of the PTSD, Bradley nudges him to bring it to his attention.

“A service dog is there to train, and they’re trained to break the chain. So, with PTSD, when you have that train of thought or that event going on in your psyche, that service dog is trained to pick up on your mannerisms or your behaviors,” Bodge said. “It’s to minimize the effects.”

Since utilizing Valor’s services – and with its recent expansion to the Lowndes County area – Bodge has become the program manager and graduate teams support specialist for the South Georgia region.

He provides service dogs to families, assisting with the transport of the dogs and their training.

In recent weeks, he’s received two new pups which have been placed with puppy coaches to be trained.

Training lasts for 18 months to two years and the dogs must be with their coaches at all times to get them acclimated to being in public.

Applications are being accepted to get service dogs.

While the recipient is given a service dog for free, he or she must be accountable for all costs associated with the care of the dog, Bodge said.

Dr. Myron Graham of Northside Animal Hospital will provide veterinarian care, Bodge said.

Valor is seeking volunteer puppy coaches, as well as volunteer puppy sitters. Sitters are to care for the dog while the coach is unavailable, such as instances the coach is out of town.

Puppy coaches are to be passionate about supporting veterans and first-responders, have a love for dogs, have a work and home life conducive to having a dog all of the time and have the ability to attend at least one hour of training classes in Valdosta once a week, according to organizers.

Puppy sitters should have weekday and weekend availability, according to organizers.

Monetary donations are being accepted to help raise the service dogs.

According to organizers, at least $14,000 is needed to graduate a service dog.

Register your Dog Schedule a Visit

  • Recent News

    Students Get Therapy Dog

    When middle school students return to class on Jan. 11, they’ll find a new face at the door: Daisy. Daisy is a therapy dog and the personal pet of Rob Kreger, principal of the Rock L. Butler Middle School. The five-year-old golden retriever is not a school pet or mascot, but rather a working dog […]

    Read more

    Therapy Dogtor

    Last March, Caroline Benzel, a third-year medical student, began to notice the stress and discomfort her nurse friends were feeling from the pressures of the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic. “[Personal protective equipment] can be really rough on the skin,” Benzel, 31, tells PEOPLE. Benzel and her 3-year-old Rottweiler, Loki (who’s also a therapy dog) hatched a […]

    Read more

    Therapy Dog Pups

    When Stanley the miniature fox terrier’s owner passed away, the little dog started a ‘paw-some’ new role – bringing puppy love to some of the Gold Coast’s oldest residents. After Carinity Cedarbrook Diversional Therapist Julianne Staff adopted Stanley, he began visiting the aged care community at Mudgeeraba as a therapy dog. Therapy dogs help to […]

    Read more

    Therapy Dogs At School

    Those who own a dog can attest to their ability to lift mood, improve stress and bring joy by simply being there, unanswering, seemingly all-knowing and always delighted to see you.  Therapy animals are known for their calm and comforting nature, giving people a way to relax, de-stress and interact with a loving pet.  They […]

    Read more

    Wonder Dog

    For those of us with dogs, we know they quickly become major parts of the family. You live for and care for just like one of your own children, and one dog right here in Oklahoma City is beating the odds, and helping others recover as a therapy dog, despite all of the issues he’s […]

    Read more

    Scott And Charlie

    Cherokee Middle School students may do a little more “doodling” second semester starting this month (January), but also will improve their attendance marks because of a special attraction at the school, courtesy of Principal Scott Aden. Aden, an effective, caring administrator, has acquired and will house and handle a young female Golden Doodle (Charlie) that […]

    Read more

    Hope For Veterans

    E5 Therapy opened in April with a different way to help veterans in therapy. They offer canine-assisted therapy along with talk therapy to veterans and veterans’ families in Solano County. Owner Matthew Decker is a licensed clinical social worker in Northern California, focused on helping veterans achieve their mental health goals. Along with his team, […]

    Read more