STRAY TO SERVICE
from Shelter Dogs to Service Dogs
Stray to Service is a Pilot Program of the Dog and Cat Shelter in Sheridan, Wyoming.
The Stray to Service’s minimum goal is to establish standards for Emotional Support Animals. Any ESA adopted through the Stray to Service program will have received a Canine Good Companion certificate from the AKC. This means they know all basic commands such as sit, stay, heel, and down. From there, we place the animal with a Veteran and continue their training based on the needs of the Veteran. Many Veterans suffer from PTSD, Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) or have physical limitations as a result of their service. The dog’s education will continue per the Veteran’s requirement, be it for mobility or to help the Veteran regain independence through enabling him or her to navigate everyday life situations.
The adoption or sponsorship for each dog is based on what has been invested. This is required so that the program is sustainable and not entirely reliant on grants to be operational. Grants for adoption fees or sponsorships of Dogs in Training is a necessary component of the program since most Veterans will not likely have the funds to cover the cost to adopt. Per pilot project estimations, the Stray to Service cost per dog will be from approximately $3,000. All of our dogs come from the Dog and Cat Shelter in Sheridan, Wyoming so there is no breeding or raising expenses and young dogs are fostered. These dogs will be available to Veterans nationwide. The Stray to Service program will also be working with adults and children who may be in need of a Service animal.
Shan earned his Bachelor's Degree in Administration of Justice and subsequently earned a Master Canine Trainer Certification from the National K-9 Learning Center of Columbus Ohio. There he learned many disciplines of dog training, including Pet Obedience, Assistance Dog for the Disabled, Scent Detection and Tracking, Search and Rescue, Personal Protection, and Police K-9 Training. At National K9, Shan trained under Scott Mueller, a founder in the training of support dogs for disabled individuals. Shan also certified a dual-purpose Explosives Detection and Patrol dog with the Department of Defense and was deployed to Iraq as a private contractor to train and handle working canines. Shan retired from the Colorado police force as a K-9 Officer and Sheriff. After retiring, he worked with a similar program to our Stray to Service in California . He currently owns and operates Country Pet Inn in Sheridan, Wyoming.
THOSE AT WORK
RECENTLY PAIRED DOGS.
Morgan and “Annie”
First and foremost, I just want to thank the team at the Dog and Cat Shelter, Shan Foster and the team at the Country Pet Inn. All of their hard work and dedication has given me not only my best friend, Annie, but also changed my life in ways I never thought possible. Thank you so much for giving me my life back.
After years of suffering from severe mental illness, I finally found an organization that helped me to get my service dog, Annie. She has changed my life, and helped me to function in my “new normal”. She helps me to go out in public, and warns me to people near me, helps me feel safe and comfortable in every situation. She is so in tune to me personally, and she knows exactly what to do and how to get me out of situations that trigger any reactions. She stands behind me in lines, or in stores while I am looking at things, she blocks people from getting near me, is always aware of things around me so that I don’t have to be constantly on guard. She knows when I get overwhelmed, and gently brings me back to a more manageable mental place by giving me a little extra attention. I can’t stress enough how much of my life she has given back to me. She is so intuitive, and she is my very best friend. I can’t imagine my life without her.
She is a wonderful service dog, but once the vest comes off, she is just the most amazing pet. She plays fetch endlessly, and my daughter and her play tag for hours. She is best friends with our other dogs, and plays with our cat. My husband even lets her take over his spot in the bed from time to time (even though she has her very own super luxurious “space”).
Every morning, before we leave for the day, Annie meets me at our basket, where we keep her vest and leash and collar. She always eyes her toys, hoping for a little extra play time, but she sits and waits patiently for her vest, and off to work we go. We go everywhere together, and she has yet to disappointment me. She even sits patiently for me when we go to the gymnastics gym, even though I know she wants to badly to play with the little ones.
I couldn’t be happier with my little Annie, and thank you so much for helping me, and giving me a chance to have a better life.
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My name is Paul Clark. I am a US Army Veteran and the partner of Boss, a Lab / Pit mix. Boss has always been by my side, even at times when I felt there was no one else. He helped me through my divorce, my transition out of the ARMY, my big move back to Wyoming, and times of fanatical uncertainty. He has helped me on a day to day basis with my PTSD and ongoing struggle with depression and alcoholism.
When my life unraveled in 2019, I found myself homeless and without the skills to continue through life. I admitted myself to an 8 week program at the Sheridan VA. The Dog and Cat Shelter found a foster for Boss under the agreement that he get neutered and get assessed for their “Stray to Service” pilot project.
As I went through the COD (Co-Occurring Disorder) program I had the opportunity to visit the shelter once a week. Boss would be at the Shelter waiting to greet me. Week by week things really started to look up and get better. Shan Foster, the Head Trainer for the Stray to Service Program started working with Boss, and eventually both of us. Shan offered six free lessons to determine if Boss and I could work together. Shan said it is extremely rare for a dog to move into Service if the he and the handler had a prior relationship. He was being honest about the (unlikely) probability of our success. He said it didn’t mean I had to give up Boss, but that I might need a different dog to be my Service animal. This is one of the many things that makes our relationship very special. Boss became my Service Dog!
Since then, I have finished my COD program and am in a transition home at the VA. In the meantime, Boss kept working and together, we have “graduated”. During COVID, only dogs that had ADA and ADI compliance training were allowed on campus as “Service Dogs”. Together, we proudly patrolled the gate while the VA was under quarantine.
The Sheridan Dog and Cat shelter saved my life. In the months following my situation, they took care of the only being that really meant something to me, so I could focus on my recovery. They gave me an actual purpose. If you look forward to something every day to get up and get out of bed, then your whole perspective changes. Shan gave me the tools that let Boss help me by guiding him in to the role of a Service Dog. Shan’s influence and training continue to this day.
This is the basic story of Boss and myself up till now. I look forward to our adventures together, being in public, and hopefully time working for the Dog and Cat Shelter.
Jason is a Veteran who struggles with severe PTSD. Kya had been surrendered to the Dog and Cat Shelter in late 2019. Shan, the Head Trainer, immediately recognized her potential. She was in “Boot Camp” for 10 weeks when Jason entered the program. There was an immediate connection. Jason and Kya finished their training together at Shan's facility. At the end of April 2020 they passed all service dog requirements with flying colors. Jason recently sent a selfie of Kya sitting by his side while he was checking out at Walmart. Jason said it’s the first time he was able to go without a support person. He knows Kya has his back.
84 East Ridge Road
Sheridan, WY 82801
HOURS ARE BY APPOINTMENT