Service dog group delivers first 'graduate' to veteran

Christopher Miller and his family arrived in Florida this week excited to meet his service dog Benning -- a meeting that was a long time coming.

Christopher, who served in Afghanistan, was being treated at Walter Reed Medical Center in Maryland for post-traumatic stress disorder and other symptoms related to combat. 

Thirteen months ago, he applied to Valor for a service dog.

“I guess it was May of last year that I was told I was being selected for placement of Benning,” he recalled.  “The first picture I got of him was a little puppy.”

At that point, Benning was already 6 months old and six months into his basic service dog training.

Carol Lansford helped found Valor Service Dogs in December of 2015.  “I wanted to kind of create something on my own and try to help more people,” she explained.

Carol says it typically takes one and a half to two years to fully train a service dog.  Benning is her first graduate.

“Everyone always asks are you going to be sad to see him go, but the answer is no. I love that dog like he is my own, but he has more to offer than anything I could ever need or want, so I’m really excited to see him go and do all the things we worked so hard to teach him.”

For Christopher, the results were immediate. With Benning providing a level of comfort and protection Chris has been missing, he's looking forward to being able to go watch his favorite sport, baseball, with his new friend.

“When he's with me, like right now, we are literally feeding off of each other,” he continued.  “When we go out in public, to places that I would normally not go -- the zoo -- that would never be a thing. But when he's with me, it's like I’m inside a bubble and I can literally tune out everything around me.”