Shelter to Soldier gives shelter dogs a second chance as companions for veterans
by JENNY WERTH
Published - 10/21/16 - 03:47 PM | 0 0 comments | 6 6 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Graham Bloem with his dog.
Graham Bloem with his dog.
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Veteran Rickey in uniform with Plato by Nine10 Photo Booth.
Veteran Rickey in uniform with Plato by Nine10 Photo Booth.
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Through the valiant efforts of Shelter to Soldier’s mission of “Saving Lives, Two at a Time,” many dogs are rescued from being euthanized in order to aid military veterans suffering from devastating ailments related to post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Through the efforts of Shelter to Soldier, rescued dogs are trained to be psychiatric service dogs for a veteran which creates a beautiful combination that oftentimes literally saves the life of both parties. La Jolla is a key training area for these dogs as they are conditioned to be comfortable and focused in crowded village areas. The non-profit was created in 2012 by long-time dog trainer and military advocate, Graham Bloem. Graham stepped down from his position of general manager and senior dog trainer at Snug Pet Resort & Absolute K9 Training team to once again pursue his passion of dog training, specializing in behavior cases and service dogs. Truly, Graham is dog’s best friend. His history with animal training includes graduating with honors as an Animal Behavior College Certified Dog Trainer (ABCDT) at Animal Behavior College. After he joined the Helen Woodward Animal Center’s adoption facility in Rancho Santa Fe working in several roles and ending as senior dog trainer. Over the years, he has worked with thousands of dogs, continuing his studies to further his understanding of dog behavior. Graham specializes in behavior modification and has helped to save the lives of thousands of dogs from an uncertain future.

Many La Jollans love their dogs as evidenced by the generous donations from La Jolla businesses including La Jolla Bella Salon, La Jolla Kayak, Piatti La Jolla and Everyday Woholle Juice Box who made contributions for The 4th annual Shelter to Soldier Fundraising event taking place in Del Mar Friday evening, Oct. 21st along with the Charity Woof Cup on Saturday. Additionally, Andrew Dale, founder and CEO of UNITE, whose professional hair care products are sold in various La Jolla salons, is sponsoring the evening.“We’re honored to be the sponsor of the Shelter to Soldier dog agility, horse/rider Grand Prix team this year at the Charity Woof Cup- anything that supports this worthy non-profit organization is great. The event draws people in that love horses and dogs and helps keep the momentum going for Shelter to Soldier. In addition, we just launched an ultra-gentle new dog shampoo named Doggy ‘Poo with a significant percentage of proceeds being donated back to Shelter to Soldier to help advance their mission.” Naturally, every cent counts for this event.

“The aim of Shelter to Soldier is to train psychiatric service dogs for post 9/11 combat veterans battling post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), traumatic brain injury (TBI), and/or other psychological or physical ailments from their service in Iraq, Afghanistan or other active areas. In addition, this program changes the lives of many dogs, rescuing them from their uncertain lives in shelters and instilling in them the meaningful opportunity to become lifetime companions for our struggling service men and women,” shared Graham. “I have seen the most incredible, unbreakable bonds created between veteran handler and service dog. These dogs watch their handler’s every move, they are dedicated... they’re a non-judgmental best friend that’s there unconditionally. It is beautiful.”

According to most recent statistics, every day on average, 20 U.S. veterans and one active duty service member commit suicide (Department of Veteran Affairs) and every day, 3,200 dogs are euthanized in the U.S. Studies estimate that one in every five military personnel returning from Iraq and Afghanistan is suffering from PTSD. The services Shelter to Soldier provides is free for veterans and their commitment to adopt rescue dogs fulfills their mission. For Graham, it’s personal. “I have been a professional dog trainer in San Diego for 15 years now and for over a decade, I have trained service dogs. The combination of my passion for training dogs, the amazing abilities they have, helping a U.S. Marine, Lt. Col Brian Dennis and his famous pup Nubs, losing a close friend to suicide and the staggering statistics of veteran suicide made me want to do all that I could to help. Creating Shelter to Soldier made sense and it was the right thing to do.”

The testimony from many veterans who have received services from Shelter to Solider prove this point.

“Shelter to Soldier service dogs in training are required to be exposed to many different environments to prepare them for life as a working service dog. Our team of trainers love utilizing downtown La Jolla, specifically Prospect St. and surrounding streets because of the heavy amount of foot traffic, businesses, other dogs and distractions in general. Our teams also practice "restaurant manners" in local establishments when possible. It is almost surreal when we train our service dogs in La Jolla... we often pinch ourselves to make sure it isn't a dream because we get to follow our passion in life as dog trainers while being seaside,” Graham added.

Guests are invited to attend the Shelter to Soldier 4th Annual Benefit and enjoy exquisite small plates from Toast Catering, crepes by Isabelle Briens French Pastry Café, gourmet cheeses from Venissimo Cheese and delectable cupcakes from Cupcakes Squared, all while enjoying beautiful views from the Del Mar Arena VIP room overlooking the Del Mar International Horse Show Charity Class. Participants will be treated to live 1920’s jazz music by Alli & the Cats, as well as an exciting silent and live auction. The fundraising event will be held at the Del Mar Fairgrounds from 5 to 9 p.m. Costumes are strongly encouraged, and Nine10 Photo booth will be there to capture great photos of guests in their Roaring 20’s attire! Tickets for this 1920’s themed benefit are available through the link below. If purchasing tickets for a group, please use code “GroupTickets” to receive 15 percent off your order of six or more tickets. Visit www.sheltertosoldier.org/event/shelter-to- soldier-4th-annual-benefit/.

In addition, the Charity Woof Cup presented by The San Diego Union-Tribune, will be held on the following day, Saturday, Oct. 22, during the International Horse Show at the Del Mar Fairgrounds beginning at 6:45 pm. This event supports multiple charities, including Shelter to Soldier (sponsored by Unite-Professional Salon System), in their effort to raise money for their respective charities by matching a Grand Prix Rider and their mount with a handler and their agility dog to compete in a relay course, racing against the clock to win the charity event. The Longines FEI World Cup™ Jumping Del Mar is one of only seven World Cup Qualifiers on the West Coast, making this a very competitive competition with world-class athletes. The World Cup Qualifier brings competitors from around the world in an intense show-jumping competition, competing head-to- head for an opportunity to compete at the World Cup Finals. The opening ceremony for the Longines FEI World Cup™ Jumping Del Mar will be on Saturday, the 22nd at 6:45 pm.

Shelter to Soldier is a CA 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization headquartered in San Diego. To learn more about veteran-support services provided by STS, call (855) 287-8659 for a confidential interview regarding eligibility or visit http://www.sheltertosoldier.org.
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