As featured in the 4 Paws for Ability 2020 Annual Report
Anthony’s service dog journey got started when his psychiatrist
scrawled “SERVICE DOG” across a prescription pad, tore off the sheet, and handed it to him.
“Go talk to the social worker,” he told Anthony. “She will know what to do.”
And so Anthony, a military veteran who interacted with working
dogs while he was in the service, discovered 4 Paws and began to make inquiries.
“One meeting turned into more meetings, then I get an information packet in the mail,” Anthony recalled. “The hardest part was the waiting list. But one day, I received a picture. The letter said her name was Nima. I printed it out and showed it to absolutely everyone. ‘Look at my doggie!’ I kept saying.”
Anthony was 20 years retired from the military by the time Nima came into his life. “When my physical problems started to increase, I knew I needed some more help,” Anthony said. The VA would not approve his wife as a home care specialist, so he began to look for other avenues, eventually reaching that fateful day in his psychiatrist’s office.
Nima and Anthony became a service dog team during Class 3B of 2020. From the first
day, Anthony was in love. “She was everything I expected, and nothing like I expected!” he exclaimed. “It is one thing to see a trained dog do its thing, it is another to actually do it. She is absolutely amazing.”
Anthony relies on Nima for mobility assistance and behavior disruption during panic attacks.
“She is persistent,” he explains. “She is checking on me all the time. If I am in the shower, I can
count on seeing her big ol’ nose peeking through the curtain.” Nima zeroes in on Anthony’s
needs based on what he calls his “my-isms”—she knows specifically what her human needs, and when.
But Nima is also very intuitive and sensitive to the people around her. “Her training in behavior disruption is strong,” Anthony tells us, “and it has been very useful in calming upset children we meet. If I see a child crying, I will approach the parent and tell them about Nima. Most of the time, they are happy to let Nima go over and work her magic.” These friendly interactions, paired with her regular walks around the lake with Anthony near their residence in Fort Knox, Kentucky, has made Nima a celebrity of sorts. “She definitely has a cult following,” Anthony laughed.
The bond between Nima and Anthony grows every day. “She has the most intense eyes,” he said. “She doesn’t look at you, she looks through you. It is weird to be the ‘thing’ a dog is trained to sense. She does it really well. At first, I couldn’t figure out why she was climbing, nuzzling…I was telling her ‘off ’ until it dawned on me she was assessing me, and knew I needed something even before I did!”
COVID has not hindered their bond. “She is exhausted from all the extra walks!” Anthony snickered. “I swear, sometimes she looks at me as if to say, ‘Um, go walk yourself.’”
Nima is certainly content to remain at home, where she has plenty to keep her busy. She made fast friends with Fred, Anthony’s rather nervous rescue beagle, and the resident cat. All the guinea pigs are her friends (though she does have a favorite that she checks on during mealtimes). With grandkids living nearby, Anthony always has the doors to his home open—and Nima is there at his side at every moment, welcoming everyone.
“She is my hobby,” Anthony said simply.
He is perfectly content to be “the guy with the dog” in his corner of the world. He looks forward to resuming his visits to the VA hospital, with Nima in tow, as COVID restrictions begin to lift. He loves making a positive impact and sharing the 4 Paws mission.
“I give away so many 4 Paws cards!” he announced. Anthony also donates to 4 Paws on a monthly basis as a way to give back. He hopes that sharing information about the organization he loves, and the dog he loves, will help others find their best service dog match. “If anyone is considering a service dog,” he claims, “I would encourage them to think on it, really think on it. Trust the process, and don’t let the wait list get you down. These dogs really will provide a service to you, but it will take time. 4 Paws doesn’t have pre-trained dogs sitting on a shelf somewhere, ready to be tuned up and handed off to you. They are trained to your specific needs, and if you are willing to put in the work, a 4 Paws service dog can change you in ways you won’t believe.”