PALMETTO, Fla. (FOX 13) - Southeastern Guide Dogs breeds, raises and trains companion dogs for people who, as they say, cannot see as well as those who have seen too much. That includes service dogs for veterans who have finished their service and may be disabled or living with post-traumatic stress.
One of those veterans is Sean Brown. He first came to Southeastern a year ago and first met Pella the black laborador.
"I'll never forget that first day that she came bounding in the room," said Brown. "I attached the leash and it was like, 'OK, we're doing this. This is what life is about to be. This is great.' And we've never been separated since then."
Before Pella came into his life, Sean was in a difficult spot. He'd been medically discharged from the Army and could no longer take part in one of his favorite activities: Motorcycling. He was feeling depressed and increasingly isolated at home.
"I knew I needed help," said Brown. "We were searching for things that would assist veterans in healing and PTSD treatment. And we found service dogs."
Southeastern trains dogs for veterans, like all of their recipients, for free. The dogs give vets a sense of security at a very difficult time.
"We hear all the time about how they weren't able to get out of the house," said trainer Marisa Blanco. "Or they had no motivation to do anything because they just thought life was over. The families start to suffer because they're just not the same person."
"Before, I couldn't go to a Walmart because I would always get a panic attack," continued Brown. "You never know who's coming around the corner. People are just really rude. But now I can go to a store."
Now, Brown not only can not only get around in public but he also has a new job. He was hired by Southeastern Guide Dogs as an associate of philanthropy.
"When I say Southeastern really appreciates veterans, I mean, they hired me. How much more appreciation can you get than that?" said Brown. "There are things I believe I can accomplish now as long as I've got her by my side. And that's what everybody should have the opportunity to achieve."
Southeastern Guide Dogs relies solely on donations for its programs. Right now there is a "Heroes Challenge" going on where everything donated to the veterans program will be matched dollar for dollar up to $250,000. That challenge continues through June.