September 30, 2021
In honor of National Service Dog Month, Shelter to Soldier (STS) is highlighting heroic dogs that have been rescued from shelters, trained and then matched with eligible US veterans who suffer from PTS, TBI and other injuries associated with combat experiences. Below are success stories that demonstrate the STS mission of Saving Lives, Two at a Time.©
Dustin A. Potash (US Army), successfully graduated through the STS curriculum and was paired with his compassionate service dog, Nigel (sponsored by UNITE Hair). According to Dustin, “I joined the Army in 2002; in 2003 I was deployed to Iraq during the first invasion. In 2013, I was diagnosed with PTSD with Major Depressive Disorder. I have had suicidal thoughts since 2013, but they [STS] helped me overcome these thoughts by pairing me with my wonderful therapeutic companion STS service dog, Nigel. STS has been nothing but a positive resource in my life. I am extraordinarily grateful to my sponsor UNITE Hair and Shelter to Soldier for providing me with a new positive outlook on life.”
“If it weren’t for STS, I don’t know if I’d still be around…they are like an extended family for me”.
Nigel is a spunky and goofy pit bull mix who loves his job as Dustin’s psychiatric service dog. STS adopted Nigel from their friends at
Labs and More Rescue in San Diego, CA.
Photo credit (above): Allison Shamrell Pet Photography
Dustin Potash with Nigel
STS service dog recipient, Shawn Brown, (USMC), recommends to other veterans who are struggling with PTS, “My best advice to other veterans is…get the help, and not to have too much pride that stops you from getting help”. Shawn was paired with his STS service dog named Wilson (sponsored by The Fish Market) in January, 2021. Brown served in the United States Marine Corps for 16 years and was deployed for two tours in Iraq in 2003-2004. Shawn elaborates, “I realized I was struggling with PTS when I got back [home], and I thought I was okay. But then five years ago, I had a genuine nervous breakdown and was having suicidal thoughts”. After learning of the STS service dog program, his subsequent acceptance into the program, and then meeting available dogs, he began to bond with the STS team and found his new, most important teammate, Wilson. “My first meeting with Wilson was in the Shelter to Soldier yard…he ran straight towards me and he was all over me. It wasn’t overwhelming, it was just right. He picked me like, ‘Hey Dad, what’s up?’ and it was a great feeling.” Since graduating the STS program it is clear that Wilson has made a positive impact in Shawn’s life. Shawn states, “With [Wilson], I’m still hesitant [in public] sometimes, but when I look at it, I see I’ve gone back out to live”.
“A lot of us get our identity in what we’ve done and not actually in who we are. So, get the help and figure out WHO you are. That’s going to help you in the end. Don’t be scared to get the help.”
Wilson made significant strides as a service dog trainee and took to his new job, proudly and quickly. Wilson was adopted from Labs and More rescue.
The success story of veteran Angelito F. Bautista (US Navy, Ret.) and his STS service dog, Halia (sponsored by Northrop Grumman) serve as an inspiration to all veterans who hope for a better future. As Angelito (“Lito”) Bautista explains, “I had a very pleasant experience during my application process with Shelter to Soldier. The pairing process [with my STS service dog] is definitely one of the most memorable experiences for me about the program. I was given the opportunity to interact with several dogs, after which it was apparent and validated by my trainer that Halia was my match. On December 24, 2020 (Christmas Eve), official transfer of Halia’s adoption was finalized.
“ Today, Halia and I continue our journey…she has allowed me to see the world from a much more grounded point of view. So much improvement and good has happened since having Halia in my life.”
Halia is a pit-mix that STS adopted from San Diego Department of Animal Services Bonita Shelter. She is gentle and cuddly, but still energetic and focused enough to really enjoy working. She has an infectious smile that lifts everyone she greets.
In 2015, Karen Miller (US Navy, Senior Chief Boatswain Mate, E8), applied to STS to acquire a service dog to help Karen alleviate medical conditions she was battling after multiple, consecutive tours she served in the US military over the span of 26 years. Karen was extremely grateful to be accepted into the STS program and declares that her dog STS service dog Seven (sponsored by FINE Magazine and Schubach Aviation) was a lifesaver. Seven unfortunately succumbed to arthritis and retired her job as a psychiatric service dog, but STS quickly reassigned a new STS service dog to Karen named Grace (sponsored by the David C. Copley Foundation), who is full of energy and ambition to serve Karen’s needs. During her deployments, Karen experienced extreme trauma that affected her ability to cope with civilian life after military retirement. Karen explains, “Thanks to my STS service dog Grace, I have been able to overcome some of the anguish I experienced. Grace is so disciplined…she responds to commands and she is very intuitive. She knows when I’m under stress and she has happy energy when I’m paying attention to her. She makes me smile more often, and when I’m with her, she climbs on my lap and she’s doing that all on her own. She senses when I need her comfort.”
“My message to my fellow veterans is that the STS program is for everyone, and you’re never too old to ask for help.”
Grace is an energetic but focused gal who thrived in the STS training program. STS adopted her from their friends at Labs and More Rescue in San Diego, CA.
If you are a veteran who is seeking the support of a psychiatric service dog program, please reach out to us to determine eligibility, or complete the Shelter to Soldier application on the homepage of our website. Our Veteran Advocate, Dustin Potash, stands by ready to answer your questions and assist veterans through the application process.
July 21, 2020
Shelter to Soldier’s Red Star Sponsorship program allows the donor to be intimately involved in the live saving impact of our mission. Funds sponsored at this level cover the adoption of a new dog from a local shelter to rescue organization, the costs of housing, training and caring for the service dog trainee through our 12-18 month training program, matching the pup with a veteran in need, handler training for the matched team, and their graduation as service dog and veteran handler. It’s a great opportunity to get your brand behind a story, providing many opportunities for cause-marketing and demonstrating your corporate responsibility. Learn more about our Red Star Sponsorship program at the link below.
Red Star Sponsorship Flyer
April 29, 2020
11 ways you can support homeless dogs and veterans in need on #GivingTuesdayNow
On Tuesday, May 5, the world will come together to GIVE. Giving Tuesday is a global day of philanthropy celebrated every year in the Fall. Inspired by the urgent need that many nonprofits currently face with a declined giving climate in the wake of COVID-19, the critical need of support programs for our most vulnerable, and the ongoing dedication of these programs to those in need, the Giving Tuesday team has created #GivingTuesdayNow dedicated to programs and initiatives that are making a difference, today and every day.
Shelter to Soldier continues to adopt dogs from local shelters and rescue organizations and our team is still hard at work in training sessions with our service dog trainees every day. Every day, we answer the call for many veterans who have hit rock bottom. They are looking for a light amidst the darkness and have found hope in our program. Our psychiatric service dogs provide nonjudgmental support to post-9/11 combat veterans suffering from the perils of mental injury associated with traumatic service experiences. They gave everything to support us. It’s our turn to give back to them.
Our service dogs agree. They stand by eager to work to attenuate symptoms of Post-Traumatic Stress (PTS) and Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI), like hypervigilance, sleep disturbances, insomnia, memory loss, anxiety, and depression, among others. Our trainees are task trained to provide both physical and emotional support to their veteran handlers.
Shelter to Soldier has 21 service dogs in training and we are currently working to adopt 4 more for our program. According to one of our veteran graduates, Adam Cunningham, USMC,
“Bash has been life-changing. After having gone through major life events, I can say with certainty that having Bash has been a major life event. With Bash, I have gone out a lot more – A LOT MORE. San Diego Gulls games (as the Military Hero of the Game!), Shelter to Soldier social events, Lake Arrowhead with friends, and yes, I do buy my own groceries at the store again. While there is still anxiety and depression, I can say that I have not had suicidal ideations. I feel I’ve been able to cope better with Bash supporting me. I am still working on reducing years of habits formed due to trauma, but I’m taking all the small victories with Bash and getting some steam behind me to look back and see the whole picture of a larger victory.”
Our mission at Shelter to Soldier continues and we need your support! Here are 11 ways you can make a difference for the lives saved by our program:
- Share our mission. Tell your friends and family on social media about the work we do. Wear your STS apparel and talk to someone new about how Shelter to Soldier is “Saving Lives, Two at a Time.” Snap a pic of you and your beloved pup and tell your friends you support @SheltertoSoldier!
- Send Cards. Veterans in general are particularly vulnerable during this time of uncertainty in the wake of COVID-19. Let them know you have their back. Send cards to our veteran students and graduates with encouraging words! Read about our Success Stories (teams) and teams in training to personalize them, or just send general notes of kindness!
Shelter to Soldier
2665 Fourth Ave.
San Diego, CA 92103
- Gift an item from our pup’s Wish List. You know that smile your pup gives you when you offer him a treat or her favorite bone? You can create that same smile on the faces of our service dog trainees by shopping on Amazon for items on our wish list and sending them to our facility:
Shelter to Soldier
2909 San Luis Rey Rd.
- Make us your charity of choice and shop Amazon Smile for all of your Amazon needs. Speaking of Amazon, did you know that you can shop utilizing all of Amazon’s amazing features on amazonsmile.com? Amazon Smile will donate a purchase of every sale (you ever make!) to your charity of choice. Simply click on the “supporting” tab under the search bar on Amazon Smile, or click the link above, and choose Shelter to Soldier as your charity!
- Wine and Doggy ‘Poo Shampoo. You’ve been safer-at-home with your pup for a weeks now, it’s time for a bath for your pooch! UNITE’s Doggy ‘Poo and Leave-In Conditioner is the most luscious blend of dog shampoo and conditioner formulated to keep your dog healthy, happy and oh so soft, PLUS proceeds benefit our program at Shelter to Soldier! Order some delicious One Hope wines where 10% of your purchase will be donated to our program, now through May 12!
- Color! And get the kids in on the fun, too. Download our Shelter to Soldier color sheet here and then post it on social media to share your artwork! @ShelterToSoldier This is a great way to get your kiddos involved in this powerful day of giving and explain the importance of giving back to their communities. Even while they are happy at home, they can feel like they’re contributing to positive change in the lives of homeless dogs and veterans who need their support. For more on how kids can get engaged in giving back through our program, read our blog post on Blue Star Sponsor Kids!
- Become a fundraiser. COVID-19 has brought challenges to everyone around the globe. Our program is no exception. Donations have dramatically slowed during this time, yet our work continues. Our program relies on donations to continue rescuing dogs and serving veterans. Becoming a fundraiser helps both share our mission and provide life-saving funds to our program. It’s as easy as adding a “donate” button on your Instagram story, creating a fundraiser on Facebook, or create a custom email to your friends and family and share our online donation link.
- Get some STS Swag. We have some fun apparel, water bottles, accessories, and even a 64 oz growler on our Shop for a Cause site – check it out! Your purchase of these Shelter to Soldier branded items raises funds for our program.
- Pledge a monthly gift. There is huge power in numbers. For as little as $5 a month, you can be a lifesaver by contributing to a sustainable source of support for our program every month. These are funds we know we can count on to run our operation and its associated costs monthly. If we all come together, we can do great things!
- Donate an item in-kind to our auction. Our fundraising events are huge contributors to our life saving work. They not only create awareness for animal rescue and veteran suicide, but they also generate much needed funds to keep us operational. Guests of our 8th Annual Gala (scheduled for August 22, 2020) love exciting auction items and the funds raised from them make a real difference for the dogs and veterans who need our program. If you know of or own a business that would like to contribute an item or package, please let us know! Email firstname.lastname@example.org for more details.
- Become a Sponsor. Have the ability to increase your gift and want to learn more? Our Red Star Sponsorship program provides the funds needed to sponsor one dog from the day of adoption, through our 12-18 month training program, to their ultimate graduation with their veteran handler. You’ll get to name the dog, receive updates on your sponsored dog’s training progress, be notified when your dog is matched with a veteran for handler training, and receive a special invitation to their graduation ceremony at the end of their program. Our White Star Sponsorship provides critical funds that support all veteran applicants, students and graduates with peer-to-peer counseling, access to services with our mental health liaison and direct support from our team throughout their journey through our program.
October 22, 2019
It’s #MakeADogsDay today (October 22nd, 2019) and our Shelter to Soldier pups are celebrating in true rescue fashion! Our service dog trainees really do enjoy the sweet life every day, with regular training sessions they love, amazing bones donated by Barkley’s Bag, and the best public access training outings ever. Not to mention, once graduated, they get to work with their veteran handler every day. It’s our daily practice to show them gratitude for the amazing work they do for our veterans, and the leaps and bounds they have come in training since their adoption day. Isn’t it great to have a day dedicated to making them feel extra special? We think so!
How can YOU #MakeADogsDay today for our Shelter to Soldier service dogs in training and those we have yet to adopt?
- DONATE Today – A gift as small as $10 goes a long way for our dogs in training. Plus, through the month of October, the Petco Foundation is matching all donations up to $20,000 made to Shelter to Soldier. Even more reason to give!
- Pledge TODAY and begin planning for a #GivingTuesday fundraiser to maximize your impact on the world’s largest day of giving, December 3, 2019. Share with your friends and family and get them involved to make a difference in our mission of “Saving Lives, Two at a Time™!“
- Do the double: 1) Set up Shelter to Soldier as your Amazon Smile charity of choice so that Shelter to Soldier receives a donation from Amazon for EVERY purchase you make when shopping from AmazonSmile.com 2) Place an order for #MakeADogsDay presents for our service dog trainees and new adoptions! See our wish list below. Please drop off or ship wish list items to our training facility: Shelter to Soldier, 2909 San Luis Rey Rd. Oceanside, CA 92058.
- Share our mission and this blog with your network of friends and family!
Shelter to Soldier #MakeADog’sDay Wish List:
- Zuke’s Mini Naturals training treats
- Bully Sticks (12 in)
- Whimzees Large chews (any shape)
- Large and XLarge Kong (stuffable) chew toys
- Pig Ears – made in the USA, Bulk options available
- Large, XLarge and Jumbo split elk antlers
- Pet Botanics Training Rewards Treats
- Blue Buffalo Wilderness Trail Treats – Wild Bits
- Merrick Power Bites Training Treats
- Cloud Star Chewy Tricky Trainer Training Treats
- Stewart Freeze Dried Liver Treats
- Crazy Dog Train Me Training Reward Treats
- Natural Balance Mini Rewards
- Natural Balance Food Roll (we cut them up and use as high value treats)
May 1, 2019
Aaron Neely served in the Navy as a Chaplain’s assistant from 2002-2008. Between 2003-2005 he served three tours in Iraq with a Marine Corps infantry battalion to include the march to Baghdad and the first push through Fallujah. Aaron started having symptoms of PTSD in 2003 but was not diagnosed until 2006 after a suicide attempt.
The following years would reveal the beginning of a long battle with PTSD and other mental health diagnoses that would result in a medical retirement from the Navy and a daily struggle to stay alive.
Aaron was connected with Shelter to Soldier and a new phase of recovery began. Aaron was paired with service dog “Liberty” and began to experience a new found confidence and an acceleration of healing. He began leaving the house by himself, driving, taking care of more of his daily needs. He began living life!
“Liberty has been a game changer! Before her I was barely leaving the house alone and struggling to connect with anybody outside my immediate family. Since entering the program I have found new confidence and a desire to experience life. I’m reconnecting with old friends and making new ones.”
– Aaron Neely
Currently Aaron is enjoying life with his service dog and growing closer to his family. He hopes to use his own experiences to encourage other veterans to seek help.
“Previously, I felt as if I was dying of a mental illness. Now, I feel like I am really living.”
– Aaron Neely
February 16, 2019
For as little as $10 a month you can Save Lives, Two at a Time™ by supporting our service dog training program, which pairs trained shelter dogs together with combat veterans to help both move forward and live fulfilling lives.
ARVE Error: Mode: lazyload not available (ARVE Pro not active?), switching to normal mode
Click here to give a monthly gift today and make your life-saving impact on the lives of shelter dogs and veterans in need.
Shelter to Soldier would like to express many thanks to Cox Communications for sponsoring this PSA spot and playing the commercial nearly 1000 times through December and January. Thank you to De Facto Ent. for producing the video at a heavily discounted rate. We could not do the work we do without the support of our community!
September 7, 2018
On Saturday, August 25th, Shelter to Soldier hosted its 6th Annual Be the Light Gala at the Hyatt Regency La Jolla at Aventine presented by Cox Communications and in partnership with Ranch & Coast Magazine and Redfearn & Associates. Other event Sponsors included Davenport Executive Search, Second Chance Beer Company, Chamber wines, Christian Brothers, The Wood Family, HR Prime, Companion Pet Care, and Avion Law. Musical artist K. Emeline and live painter Amy Burkman provided exciting entertainment for the evening.
Over 200 guests joined in the celebration, participating in silent and live auctions by Clint Bell auctioneer, that raised $88,000 for the program.
On behalf of the Shelter to Soldier team, we are extremely thankful for the generous support of our community that came together to donate auction items and to volunteer their time and support. We appreciate the generosity of the guests who attended and contributed significantly to the Gala’s fundraising effort. We look forward to another year of “Saving Lives, Two at a Time” with this momentum and are honored to have all of you join us on the journey.
You can catch exciting moments of the evening here.
Thank you to our fantastic photography partners, Monica Hoover Photography, our event photographer, and Nine10 Photo Booth Images for our fun Photo Booth and red carpet photography!
March 15, 2018
We all know the importance of service dog education, especially amongst our youngest animal welfare ambassadors. For this reason, Shelter to Soldier™ service dog recipient and Veteran Advocate, Vic Martin, created this amazing color page for our littlest supporters. Its a great way to open up the conversation with them about the incredible role of service dogs and the etiquette with which we should treat them in public. Have fun and make sure to #SavingLives2ataTime to show us your colorful creations on Facebook and Instagram! On April 14th we will announce a winner to receive a STS trucker hat or t-shirt! Open to all ages 12 and under for the drawing, but anyone may participate in the activity and hashtag. Enjoy!
Downloadable PDF link below:
On February 24th, Shelter to Soldier™ and supporter Holli Lienau hosted Shelter to Soldier™’s First Annual Red Star Sponsor Thank You Soirée, where the program’s sponsors were acknowledged for their life-saving impact on the program. From the entire Shelter to Soldier™ team, we thank you all for your continued support of our mission. Thank you for getting your companies and foundations behind our cause, for believing in the work we do, and for giving so generously to our program. It is because of each and every one of you that we are able to carry out our mission today and save the lives of shelter dogs and veterans in need, every day. Thank you.
We would like to extend our most sincere thanks to longtime supporter of Shelter to Soldier™, Holli Lienau. Holli opened her home to our program and helped to create an event that was truly one to remember, and perfect for honoring the impact our sponsors have made on our growth. Over the years, she has run her own fundraiser for Shelter to Soldier™ through a Super Bowl party with her friends and family and she also serves as an event Co-Chair for our annual gala (2017 and 2018). We are so thankful to have her as a special part of the Shelter to Soldier™ family and we were thrilled to enjoy such an incredible event in the breathtaking scenery of her home located in Rancho Santa Fe, CA. We look very forward to adopting a new dog for our program under your generous sponsorship of our program.
We hope you enjoy the photos of our Red Star and Platinum Star Sponsors at our Thank You Soirée below. Thank you to the amazing Monica Hoover Photography for capturing such amazing images, to Sundried Tomato Catering for the delicious small bites and pizzas, to Tim Foley for amazing musical entertainment that captured the interest of every guest, and to Decorated Confections for the delectable and beautiful desserts! A huge thanks to our volunteer team, service dog handlers, veterans and service dogs for volunteering your time to our mission and this event.
September 2, 2017
North County Supports Shelter To Soldier Brings Hair-Razing Fundraiser to Vista
VISTA — North County Supports Shelter To Soldier (NCSSTS) will assist with staging an upcoming fundraiser in the group’s efforts to aid a nonprofit organization that provides service dogs free of charge to military veterans in need. The event will feature long-haired and bearded volunteers who have offered to be shaved during the afternoon party. Offering up their heads and faces for charity are Joe Kuntz, Alina Diaz, Daniel Humann and Jake Jucenas. Chances to shave these volunteers will be raffled off during the event. Event tickets for attendees at a concurrent “Sadie Hawkins” Dinner Party will be available for $10 apiece.
Date/Time: Saturday, September 2, Noon
Location: Alvin Myo Dunn American Legion Post 365, 1234 S. Santa Fe Ave., Vista, CA 92084
Proceeds from event the will go to Shelter to Soldier™, which describes its organizational mission as “saving lives two at a time,” first by rescuing dogs at risk of being euthanized for lack of shelter space, and second by training and partnering those dogs as psychiatric service companions for recently separated veterans of military service, especially those diagnosed as experiencing post-traumatic stress, traumatic brain injury and depression.
The post-service casualty rate, according to the Veterans Administration, is loss of 22 to 23 U.S. military veterans committing suicide daily. Among homeless dogs, about 2.7 million are put to death annually, for scarcity of adoptive homes and shelter space. Those startling numbers inspired longtime dog trainer Graham Bloem and his wife, Kyrié, to found Shelter to Soldier™ in 2012.
On average, the care, boarding and training costs for each STS dog total $12,000. During this current fundraising year, NCSSTS is near to reaching the goal of paying for one service dog for a veteran in need.
Next Page »