PAUL & BOSS
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 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 Stray to Service program 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.
Update: Paul is now a home owner and a saddlemaker!