We’d like to introduce you to Vern, Saint Francis Service Dog recipient and US veteran of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. He was injured in the line of duty and suffers from traumatic brain injury, post- traumatic stress disorder and a severe back injury.
Vern’s service dog Marino accompanies him everywhere he goes, picking things up for him, carrying items, and opening doors. Having Marino in public gives Vern confidence and shifts his focus, which helps him in many ways. Vern says, “Marino is there for me when I am low and down. He loves me and is there for me no matter what. Marino’s energy gives me energy. When I need him the most, he has been such a good friend and it means the world to me. My family would say that I have opened up more because of him. He makes me feel more confident in public because instead of being alone, I now have him to walk beside me on this journey. This is a once in a lifetime chance to have a friend that loves me unconditionally and will always be there for me.”
Saint Francis Service Dogs is a non-profit organization that helps children and adults with disabilities to become more independent and self-sufficient through partnerships with professionally trained service dogs. Explore recently endowed the organization with a grant, since the costs to train each dog over a two-year period can be tens of thousands of dollars, an amount that Saint Francis absorbs itself. We hope the grant allows their efforts to continue.