One of the best days of my life is when I met you and my service dog, Niko. It was August 2011 and my wife and I decided that it was time to look for a new companion. We had been very close to our last dog, a miniature dachshund named Hercules, and when he passed away at age 14 we were devastated. So…it took several years before we were ready to get another dog. We felt this time it should be one that could go everywhere with me – a certified service dog.
We called K9s for Veterans and were told to come by to see the dogs in your kennel and if we did not find what we were looking for, that you would go to Animal Services with us and we would pick out a dog for you to train. We came to your location in Tampa and saw your operation and looked at the wonderful dogs you had trained. Those in your kennel were larger than what we were looking for that could ride on my scooter with me. While we were talking about what our needs were, Niko (a beautiful 10-pound miniature pinscher) came out of your home and jumped up on my scooter and then up on my wife’s lap. I believe it was love at first sight for the three of us!
We went to dinner together that first evening and Niko behaved beautifully. We learned that Niko had been a rescue dog that had been thrown out of a car window in Orlando and made his way to K9s for Veterans. We took care of the necessary paperwork and picked him up about a week later. It took several months of additional training to become certified, but it was well worth the wait.
Niko makes every day better for me and makes me smile even on days that are difficult because of the physical pain I am in daily. He has saved my life more than once. The most memorable time was in 2013 when I was having difficulty breathing. We were at the VA meeting with my primary care doctor and Niko was behaving as he does when something is very wrong with me – circling, acting erratic and not settling down. The doctor could not determine what the problem was; but, based upon Niko’s behavior, she decided to admit me to the hospital to run further rests. The tests determined that I was bleeding internally and needed five units of blood. Niko saved the day!
I have been in the hospital several times in the past five years and he comes to the hospital with my wife and spends 8 – 10 hours a day in the room with me. He behaves so well that no one even knows he is in the room.
Thank you, Mike, for introducing me to my best friend and I believe the best thing that has happened to my wife and I during our 23-year marriage (well, perhaps other than our six grandchildren being born).
Robert Allen Johnson