Life when every day is “bring your dog to work day” is always good. A little under 2 years ago I was connected with my service dog, Raven, and my life was forever changed. Raven is a 2-year-old all black Belgian Malinois that is 80 pounds of nothing but love and affection (unless you hurt her family or her Dad). She was trained beginning just weeks into her life to connect with one human being and take care of them in any way possible. I am that lucky human being. [caption id="attachment_12631" align="aligncenter" width="576"]
Raven, alert and attentive at all times. Well, unless she's sleeping.[/caption]When you are first connected with a service dog, there is a definite "feeling-out" period between you and your K9; ours was interesting, to say the least. Malinois’ are sometimes referred to by their handlers in the military and police world as “Maligators,” and I learned very quickly why. That breed of dog was bred to bite, and it became very apparent to me that she was going to need something to chew on or she would find something herself -- and whatever she was going to find was not going to be good. In the first 6 months of her life, she destroyed everything from a king size mattress to an entire sheet of drywall in my kitchen. There just seemed to be nothing that this dog didn’t want to chew on. The “indestructible” Kong seemed to be light work for her and a rawhide lasted just seconds, but after about 10 months and a lot of training my Raven finally came into exactly who she was meant to be and quickly became my best friend. Raven is unique; most service dogs trained to treat PTSD and anxiety are usually a generally tamer breed such as a golden retriever or Lab, not a Belgian Malinois, but she is perfect in my eyes. Her energy and demeanor are an instant pick me up on even the worst days, and it’s hard to be mad about anything when she looks up at you with her big brown eyes. She can give a hug better than most humans and will give you kisses until you have to fight her off.[caption id="attachment_12629" align="aligncenter" width="576"]
Chilling at the office, waiting to give out love and attention to anyone that needs it.[/caption]After exiting the Military, I had a lot of changes in my life in a very brief period of time. Not only was I transitioning out of the military and back into the civilian world but I was going through many personal life changes and some losses as well. When I felt like I was at rock bottom and had no reason to get up in the morning anymore, it was Raven that was always right there. No matter how much I fought her, she always managed to get me up and get me going. I needed that in my life and her training paid off every day. Working at Grunt Style has been one of the most welcoming places to have a service dog as well. It seems like every day Raven is not just my service dog, but everyone’s. She has love for anyone that walks by my desk and it’s a regular occasion for someone having a tough day to walk up and ask for a little bit of “Raven time”. When the maintenance guy is getting his ass kicked by one of the dozens of machines in production that act up he will step away and come up front to just hang out with Raven for a minute and get leveled out again. When the sales team is crunching time to make numbers and stressing about goals, Raven is always there to distract them from the daily grind. She never gets tired of doing her job, because her job is just to love and care for me and anyone else that needs a pick me up. She always seems to sense when someone is frustrated or having a bad day, and when I take her home to the family at the end of the day and the vest comes off there is nothing she loves to do more than "herd" our 2-year-old and 4-year-old together and make sure that they never stray too far from the front yard. She is part of my family and I love her for that. For those of you who aren’t “dog people”, or those of you that think “it’s just a dog” come to 400 E Fullerton in Carol Stream Illinois and meet Raven, our Grunt Style family’s service dog, and I can promise you will leave with a changed outlook.