Although the Missouri Patriot Paws organization has been pairing service dogs with Missouri military veterans for about a year, a special event took place Friday, May 29, at Veterans Memorial Park in Rolla.

Although the Missouri Patriot Paws organization has been pairing service dogs with Missouri military veterans for about a year, a special event took place Friday, May 29, at Veterans Memorial Park in Rolla.
“Welcome to our official first graduation ceremony,” said Susan Hinkle, program director for the organization that provides trained service dogs for veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder or traumatic brain injury.
Hinkle said the group has placed 13 dogs since formation began in January 2014.
“It’s been quite the year getting Patriot Paws started,” she said. “This has been a long year, and this is our success story.”
Hinkle introduced five veterans and their dogs, and she presented them each with a quilt for the dog’s bed, along with a certificate and an official identification badge.
Justin Semkin, Hannibal, and his dog Angel, who was donated to the program by the Fort Leonard Wood kennel master, were the first to “graduate.”
“She helps me remember to take my pills,” said Semkin, who served in Iraq, Afghanistan and Kosovo. “The biggest thing is in public, she gives me plenty of space. If we’re in Walmart, I don’t like people coming up.”
Brenda Faulkner, Waynesville, and Truman, who came from the Puppies For Parole training program at Licking state prison, have been together about a month.
“I have nightmares,” said Faulkner, who served in the Army. “He wakes me up. He also reminds me to take my medicine.”
Ernie Brown, Waynesville, received Cole, who originally came from the Houston, Missouri, animal shelter, many months ago and went through the training.
An Army engineer, “both vertical and horizontal,” Brown said he served in Iraq, Afghanistan and Haiti, as well as other places. He’s retired now, and likes the buffer Cole provides “when I get around too many people.”
Dustin Baggs, St. Robert, has had Bravery, who came from a home environment, since January. A combat engineer who served in Iraq, Baggs said he is medically retired and counts on Bravery for emotional support, mobility assistance with Baggs’ back and hip injuries.
“He’s helped me out a lot in many ways,” Baggs said. “He watches my back.”
Todd Euglow, Waynesville, is another veteran who relies on a service dog. His companion is Duke, who came from a Waynesville shelter.
“He’s a very smart dog,” said Euglow, who is retired and now works at Fort Leonard Wood. “He’s helping me every day.”
The dog wakes him from nightmares, reminds him to take his medications and calms him down when he starts getting agitated, Euglow said.
Euglow served in Panama and on various Cold War-era operations.
Although he got Duke in November, Euglow started training the dog with Canine Connections’ Jessi Queen in February.
“Everybody here came out of Jessi Queen’s training,” Hinkle said at the graduation ceremony.
Queen, who regularly teaches obedience and other classes in the Rolla area, said she worked with these veterans to train the dogs to pass basic obedience standards and the American Kennel Club’s requirements for Canine Good Citizen certification.
Each dog has also passed a public access test to assure they will remain focused on their veteran companion no matter what is going on around them when in public.
As service dogs, they are trained to perform at least three tasks relevant to the veteran’s disability.
“I train them and their dogs,” Queen said of the veterans.
By the time the training is done, there is a close emotional bond between the people and their dogs, such that the dogs can sense when the owner is having nightmares or is agitated, and can take action to calm the person down.
Linking the dogs’ feeding times with the medication times is the best way to serve as reminder for taking the daily pills.
And teaching the dog to move in front, or sometimes in back, of the person, helps provide the barrier for the personal space that these veterans need, Queen said.