Heroes' Café Shoreline hears about service dog program for veterans

Thursday, February 23, 2023

U.S. Army veteran with his service dog
By Doug Cerretti

Heroes' Café Shoreline was proud to host Don Lachman, US Army veteran, who spoke about his work with Brigadoon Service Dogs, February 14, 2023. 

Brigadoon Service Dogs, located in Bellingham, WA, provides trained service dogs for veterans, children, and adults with physical, developmental, and behavioral health disabilities to promote a more independent and enriched life. 

Don has been associated with Brigadoon Service Dogs for 15 years as a board member and volunteer veterans' advisor. Founded in 2004, Brigadoon Service Dogs has placed over 70 service dogs and has achieved accreditation with Assistance Dogs International, the industry professional standard for service dog programs. 

Don Lachman speaking at Heroes' Cafe
Shoreline. Photo by Doug Cerretti
Don explained to approximately 70 Heroes' Café attendees that there are three types of support dogs, service dogs, therapy dogs and emotional support dogs. 

Support dogs have the highest level of training and are the only ones that have complete access with their handlers even in places where “no dogs are allowed” and in airlines for example.

Service animals are trained to work or perform tasks for people with disabilities. The work or task a dog has been trained to provide must be directly related to the person’s disability. The dog’s training is tailored to their future handler’s needs, such as retrieving objects, helping to manage anxiety and stress, and improving mobility and turning on lights or opening doors. 

Support dogs are highly trained and well disciplined, in laymen terms, they pass the “squirrel test” whereas lessor trained would not. The best breeds for service dogs are Smooth Collies, Golden Labs, Standard Poodles and Labrador Retrievers. Don mentioned that Poodles seems to be the smartest. Interestingly, offspring of support dogs turn out to be good candidates for service dog training.

Don with service dog candidate “Lil Donnie”
Brigadoon Service Dogs initiated a program in 2012 for veterans suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and/or Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI). 

Veterans who are diagnosed with these conditions have a difficult time handling the stress and the memories of the events which affected their ability to perform day to day functions, interact normally with family and friends and maintain gainful employment. 

The name of this program is CHI – Canines and Heroes' for Independence. When teamed with a well-mannered service dog, the veteran is able to receive a vitally important reality affirmation when the dog is summoned. Tactile stimulation can be very calming in stressful situations. 

In addition, the dogs can be trained to nudge his partner to “snap” the veteran out of a frozen moment caused by anxiety, or wake him up from a nightmare or night terrors by turning on a light. 

In public situations, the veteran can give a cue for the dog to stand between himself and other people to reduce his anxiety. 

Service dogs are supplied at no cost to veterans.

Incarcerated veterans work to train service dogs
In a very unique program, Brigadoon Service Dogs manages four prison programs with the Washington Department of Corrections at Cedar Creek Corrections Center in Littlerock, WA, Stafford Creek Corrections Center in Aberdeen, WA, Washington Corrections Center in Shelton, WA and Coyote Ridge Corrections Center in Connell, WA.

In these programs the dogs are trained by inmates under the supervision of a Brigadoon trainer. 

Each candidate dog has training and behavior benchmarks. The dogs reside with the inmates, who are responsible for their care, including grooming.

The training program at Stafford Creek Corrections Center is unique in that incarcerated veterans serve as trainers for dogs that will go to a veteran. The focus is on raising and training service dogs for veterans returning from Afghanistan and Iran who are suffering from PTSD, TBI and/or mobility issues. 

This program benefits many – the animals who are trained to become service dogs, the client that the dog is placed will gain confidence, independence and self-worth, and the inmate who is given an opportunity to learn new skills that can lead to gainful employment on release. It’s Veterans helping Veterans. 

Don said that many of these inmates become some of the best trainers. In fact, Brigadoon Service Dogs recently hired one of these veteran inmate trainers when he was released.

Shoreline Veterans Association Chair Ray Coffey presenting
Certificate of Appreciation to Don Lachman for his presentation
 on Brigadoon Service Dogs. Photo by Doug Cerretti
It takes 16 months to two years to train a service dog at a cost of around $30,000. Brigadoon Service Dogs raises funds through grants, private donors, veteran organizations, an annual auction, hosted fundraisers and Brigadoon Biscuits. 

Starr Sutherland, Jr. Post 227 of The American Legion in Shoreline, WA is providing funds to feed two dogs being trained by veteran inmates that will be given to a veteran in need. For more information go to https://www.brigadoondogs.org

Heroes' Café is a monthly gathering for all veterans to focus on fostering positive outreach, interaction, and welfare within their neighboring community.

Heroes Cafe Shoreline meets the second Tuesday of every month from 9:00 am to 1:00pm at the Seattle Scottish Rite Center, 1207 N 152nd St, Shoreline WA 98133. Veterans, Family, Friends and the Community are welcome.

Photos courtesy of Don Lachman and Brigadoon Service Dogs except as noted


Anonymous,  February 23, 2023 at 8:44 PM  

BTW: “Lil Donnie” graduated and is now with a Veteran.

Anonymous,  February 24, 2023 at 10:16 AM  

What a lovely, heart-warming story that reminds us that things can get better for those returning from hell on earth. I love dogs and have a therapy dog that has "made my day" according to those who may not have PTSD, but still feel better after spending time with a loveable dog.

I'm so glad to hear that incarcerated vets are given the chance to learn from these loving creatures, while creating new graduates for other vets.

Thank you for "making my day" with this article!

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