Custom Ink News & Events

Matching Service Dogs and Veterans with Rescue 22

Rescue 22 (R22) rescues dogs and trains them to be service and emotional support animals for veterans of the United States Armed Forces. There are many veterans who have experienced physical injuries or lasting emotional difficulties like PTSD during their service, and because of the funding they receive, Rescue 22 is able to provide specially-trained animals as well as long term education and support to veterans who are part of their program.

View this post on Instagram

Monday Motivation…the art of the tuck. Morgan here demonstrating how a 75 pound lab can make the smallest footprint possible while in public. Being a service dog is anything but fun and games. It is quite serious work. The right dog for the job must often tolerate being still and tucked for hours at a time. They need to be alert to the needs of their person no matter how tired. It is critical to be neutral to all stimulus, including other dogs and members of the public that do not respect boundaries. All of this preparation takes hours of work with redundancy of task. It takes a special dog and experts like our co founders @coastline_k9 and @devinek9s to make it happen. The Rescue 22 Foundation has twelve veterans on the wait list and we can't do it without you. Please consider supporting our work, LINK IN BIO. #servicedogsforveterans #savingtwoatatime #servicedog

A post shared by Rescue22 (@rescue22foundation) on

One veteran who was lucky enough to be matched with an animal from Rescue 22 is Randy Swallows of Dunedin, FL. A former Army Ranger with the 1st Ranger Battalion, Randy had trouble acclimating to life after service. He says, “As a veteran who has struggled with the readjustment from the traumas of war to being a father, employee, volunteer, friend, and citizen, I have found difficulty through the years having the self-awareness to understand when I am struggling with anxiety, reacting to my daily environment, and learning about my own feelings.”

A man stands in a yard smiling with his hand on the head of his emotional support dog.

Randy and his emotional support dog, Shadow.

He first heard about R22 when another Ranger veteran posted about his service dog on a Facebook of local Rangers. Randy says, “I thought about the benefits that one of these animals might bring to my own family after seeing how this veteran benefitted from his service K9.”

He investigated the organization and liked how their services were set up. “Rescue 22, through their programming and pairing, teaches the handler how the animal thinks, and how to continue their training at home.”

He was matched with Shadow, a Belgian Malinois trained in emotional support, who he now considers a member of his family. “We wrestle, laugh at his personality, include him in most every activity of our daily lifestyle, and enjoy the fullness that he brings to our family.”

Shadow helps Randy focus and calm down when he gets anxious. He also makes sure that Randy takes regular breaks from his work. “Shadow is very much in tune with what I am feeling and how my environment effects me daily. If I’m on a phone call that is stressful to me, Shadow will come to me in the conversation and check on me, letting me know that he sees something has changed in my voice, or emotions during that phone call and gently intervenes by refocusing my attention to him to disrupt the anxiousness that I am experiencing. I always call these experiences because anxiety is not just something that I feel, it is an experience. This trust that we share is so valuable.”

Shadow isn’t just attuned to Randy’s emotions and physical health. He also helps Randy feel more comfortable in public settings. “I have always struggled with feeling safe in and out of our home as well and have often found myself checking doors, being awakened by noises, or positioning myself in public settings to minimizes foot traffic near me; which subsequently minimizes the opportunity for me to interact with other people, socially.” Having Shadow has not only helped him open his world to people, but he’s helped him feel comfortable in public. 

“I have learned to surrender the tasks of being a ‘sentinel’ to Shadow. He hears things I would never be able to hear and is aware of ‘danger’ long before I would ever even recognize it. If I am in public, I feel safe enough with him even to close my eyes to meditate as I know Shadow is watching my environment.”

Shadow also helps ease Randy’s worries about safety by working as a watchdog at home. He notifies him about what’s going on around his house and yard by barking in different ways. “One morning Shadow woke me with a very aggressive, rapid bark letting me know someone was near the home. It was 3:27 AM and it immediately woke me from my deep sleep. I didn’t worry about having to arm myself, I didn’t concern myself where the person was in my yard.” He was able to keep from getting too worried because Shadow stopped barking, letting him know that the threat was over. He says, “Previously, this would have been a serious interruption where I would be checking video cameras, checking the yard, bushes, etc. because a motion light was tripped.” But he relaxed, knowing that he could trust Shadow. When he looked at his security footage the next morning, he saw that people had been on his property checking to see if his truck was locked, but that they had gone as soon as they’d heard Shadow bark.

It’s safe to say that getting matched with Shadow has changed Randy’s life for the better.

“I hope for people to know about the work of Rescue 22 so that they understand the value that amazing animals, paired with the right training, can provide. These animals are so smart, well trained, disciplined, intentional, and purposeful that I wish I only knew about their services sooner.”

Rescue 22 is running a t-shirt fundraiser so that they can help more people like Randy. Learn more about their mission and how support can help at their fundraising page.

Miellyn is the Copy Manager at Custom Ink. Her work has spanned marketing for television networks like TLC and Travel, educational content for Smithsonian and National Geographic, marketing and story for indie video games, essays for publishers including Random House, The Telegraph, and Smart Pop Books, and stories for press outlets like VICE and VH1.

Start Designing
View Comments
There are currently no comments.

Leave a Comment