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People We've Helped - The Tower of Hope

People We've Helped

Our web site contains information about how The Tower of Hope was formed, how we accomplish our mission, and how you can help. But the most important part of our site is revealed in the stories describing how the service dogs whose training we have funded have changed the lives of their "partners". These stories are indeed moving and emotional, yet they pale in comparison to the experience of actually seeing what these amazing dogs have done to provide hope and fulfillment. Please read these stories and experience the anguish and the elation, the pain and the joy. In the words of our founder, Cathy Carilli, "Your donations to The Tower of Hope have made a huge difference in the quality of life for those who have sacrificed so much for all of us."

Arthur Rizer and Service Dog Danny

Charlie Hernandez

Arthur was deployed in Fallujah, Iraq in 2005 when an IED exploded 15 feet from his convoy.  Due to the blast, Arthur suffered a traumatic brain injury (TBI,) which has subsequently caused problems with his equilibrium and significant hearing loss.  Despite his injuries, Arthur searched another vehicle looking for his comrades.  Unfortunately several of the Iraqi soldiers that Arthur was responsible for died due to injuries they received from the IED.  Arthur was awarded the Bronze Star and the Purple Heart.  Danny helps Arthur with his hearing, equilibrium, and PTSD.  In Arthur’s words, “Danny has changed my life.”
The Tower of Hope sponsored the training and pairing of Arthur and Danny in 2010.

Keith Polischuk and Service Dog Hudson

Charlie Hernandez

Keith became a C6 incomplete quadriplegic as a result of a diving related spinal cord injury in 2005.  Hudosn helps pull Keith's wheelchair, as well as carry and pick up items for him.  He frees him from the need to rely on others as much as previously, as well as helping him navigate rough or hilly terrain.  In Keith's words, "Not only is Hudson a major aid for my mobilitiy, but he has a tremendously positive impact on how the world at large interacts with me!"
The Tower of Hope sponsored the training and pairing of Keith and Hudson in 2010. Watch Keith's video

Justin Perez and Service Dog Maki

Charlie Hernandez

Justin Perez is a native of Manhattan who has Cerebral Palsy and has been dependent on others his entire life. When he turned eighteen this year and could make his own decisions, he was paired with Maki, a black Lab, and the two passed Team Training with flying colors.

Justin lives with his grandmother, “my Moms” in the Bronx. He says that he is in the process of teaching Maki to respond to certain words in Spanish. This way, his grandmother can tell Maki to do things, too.

Maki has already helped Justin in many ways. “She motivates me,” he says, she “makes me want to do things. She’ll jump up on my bed and say, let’s go.” In addition, before Maki, Justin had to leave his door open, now that Maki can open and close it for him, Justin can have privacy.  After his home aid person gets him up and in his chair in the morning, Justin and Maki leave for school. Justin is aiming to go to City College next year and wants to major in Computer Science.
The Tower of Hope sponsored the training and pairing of Justin and Maki in 2010.

Christian Flemming and Service Dog Jonesy

Charlie Hernandez

Christian served in the Marine Corps, and then decided to return to Afghanistan as a private contractor.  In June 2009, he was caught in an IED explosion resulting in the loss of both legs below the knee.  As a bilateral amputee using both prosthetic limbs and a wheelchair, the assistance of a service dog became invaluable.
The Tower of Hope sponsored the training and pairing of Christian and Jonesy in 2010.

Charles Hernandez and Service Dog Valor

Charlie Hernandez

Charles deployed from 2004-2006 with the 145th maintenance company. During his service, he received injuries to his shoulder and his back.  After recovering, he was informed that his spinal cord had suffered further injury leading to a flattening of it that led to his medical retirement.
The Tower of Hope sponsored the training and pairing of Charlie and Valor in 2010.

Brent Jurgersen and Service Dog Houston

William White

Sgt. Major Brent Jurgersen from Virginia was wounded in the face by enemy insurgents during a fire fight in Samara, Iraq.  He was subsequently severely wounded during a Rocket Propelled Grenade (RPG) attack in Ad Daluigh, Iraq.  This latter injury resulted in the loss of his left leg by amputation.  His service dog Houston will serve as a walker/balance dog while on his prosthetic leg, and help with many daily tasks such as pickiing up fallen objects, bringing him requested items, and providing companionship.
The Tower of Hope sponsored the training and pairing of Brent and Houston in 2010.

Doug Rink and Service Dog Scooter

William White

Doug was in the Army for sixteen years and then spent eleven years in the Air Force retiring with the rank of Major.  Doug was seriously hurt in a car accident in Washington, D.C. while on active duty.  As a result of the accident he lost his right leg, had a broken shoulder as well as fractures of the back and traumatic brain injury.  Doug teaches at the Uniformed Services University in Maryland.  The U.S.U. is the only military medical school in the United States

The Tower of Hope sponsored the training and pairing of Doug and Scooter in 2010.

Doug Schwartz and Service Dog Cabernet

William White

Senior Airman Doug Schwartz was injured during Desert Storm in 1995.  During his deployment in Dhahran, Saudi Arabia, he was responsible for transporting troops and supplies from the Air Force housing complex to the Air Force base. 

His injury occurred while unloading provisions.  The load had shifted during transport; upon opening the truck doors, heavy crates fell directly onto Doug’s head.  He suffered a TBI and severe back injury with such extensive nerve damage that he lost his ability to walk and has been a wheelchair user as a result. 

In spite of the chronic pain and ensuing depression, his outlook is positive.  Doug participates in marathons with the Achilles Freedom Team of Wounded Veterans; his adaptive sports specialties include hand cycling and downhill skiing.  He is also an avid animal lover, devoting his time and energy to raising and training his 3 parrots and his service dog, Cabernet.

The Tower of Hope sponsored the training and pairing of Doug and Cabernet in 2010.

Brandon Rethmel and Service Dog Sam

Brandon Rethmel

Brandon Rethmel lost his right leg to amputation following and IED explosion while serving in Afghanistan.  In addition, he suffered severe injuries to his right shoulder, and hearing loss caused by an ear drum rupture by the explosion.  Sam helps Brandon with mobility when on his prosthetic leg, as well as retrieving objects, opening doors, and turning lights on and off when using his wheelchair.

The Tower of Hope sponsored the trainng and pairing of Brandon and Sam in 2010.

William White and Service Dog Rudy

William White

Marine Corps Sergeant William White Served 16 years full Active Duty, 96 nations, 5 and a half years sea Time. With tours in Beirut, Lebanon, El Salvador, Ecuador, Panama, 4 of the 5 Philippine coup attempts, Desert Shield, Storm & Saber, LA Riots, Somalia & Bosnia. He specialized in Communications, Reconnaissance, Motorcycle Scout / Messenger and Military Police. Ten years ago William was injured by a 100,000 Volts of electricity, a service connected injury not Combat related, resulting in him losing his Right Leg below the knee and Right Arm above the elbow.  Rudy his VetDog helps him with daily tasks such as bracing should he fall, carrying special items in his backpack for Williams prosthetics should they break, retrieving various objects including Williams Prosthetic limbs, Ruby is also aquatically trained to assist in the pool and can tow William to the stairs or ladder should he need help.  The two have been inseparable since they were introduced in July 2010.

The Tower of Hope sponsored the training and pairing of Bill and Rudy in 2010.

David Bailey and Service Dog Lawson

David Bailey

David Bailey suffers from hemiplegia, also known as hemiparalysis, meaning that one half of his body is paralyzed.  Lawson helps him in many ways, such as retrieving dropped objects, providing stability (brace walking), bracing from the floor after a fall, help getting out of a chair, opening doors hitting push plates, and activating an amergency alert button.

The Tower of Hope sponsored the training and pairing of David and Lawson in 2010.


Danny Pion and Service Dog Deacon

Danny Pion

Danny suffers from a spinal cord injury that he received in a pool accident in 2009. He has range of arm motion, but no grip ability and no ability to walk. Danny uses a personal care attendant for some things, but Deacon will be his full time arms--to pick up things, get things he needs from unreachable places, and turn lights on and off, and to do other tasks. In Danny's words, "Deacon has improved the quality of my life greatly." Danny served in the Vermont National Guard. Deacon was trained in a correctional center in Norfolk, MA.

The Tower of Hope sponsored the training and pairing of Danny and Deacon in 2010.

Troy Nelson and Service Dog Glory

Troy Nelson

Troy Nelson suffered a spinal cord injury in an accident. He served as Army Staff Sergeant with tours of duty in Iraq from 2003-2005. Troy will be using a wheelchair for the rest of his life. After some time, he became aware that assistance dogs were very helpful for those who use a wheelchair. As a Veteran, Glory, was trained by inmates at a correctional facility. Glory picked up only good habits there, and has been taking good care of Troy since his release. Troy and his wife, Sheila, have 3 children.

The Tower of Hope sponsored the training and pairing of Troy and Glory in 2010.

Jay Henchen and Service Dog Gabrielle

Jay Henchen

Jay joined the Air Force in Feb. 1995 and was stationed overseas (Spain) working in communications when he was injured and diagnosed as a C-5, C-6 spinal cord injury. He received an honorable medical discharge in August 1996 Radar was my first pet and he was the best companion anyone could ask for.  Besides companionship, he brought me a great deal of independence.  I'm a quadriplegic and constantly dropping things such as keys, remotes or the phone so and I really relied on Radar for retrieving.  His service gave me confidence not to rely on needing another person around and gave family members more freedom knowing he was there to assist me. His training, and obedience made it very easy for me to care for him. Now Gabrielle will be doing the same thing for me as Radar did.

The Tower of Hope sponsored the training and pairing of Jay and Gabrielle (Gabby) in 2010.

Jennifer Clark-Barto and Service Dog Emmett

Jay Henchen

Retired Army Sergeant Jennifer Clark-Barto, a 13 year combat medic, spent 6 years in the Middle East (4 years in Saudi Arabia, 2 years in IraqIn September, 2004, Jennifer’s convoy was traveling Route Irish back to the base in Baghdad when it was hit by an IED.  She suffered a closed Traumatic Brain Injury, spinal cord compression, hip and knee injury and shrapnel wounds but refused treatment until she had triaged and made sure that the rest of her team was safe.  After spending a year at Walter Reed, Jennifer is recovering but still suffers migraines as part of the residual effects of the TBI and needed a dog to assist with her gait and balance.  Retrieving her cane when she drops it, providing stability and balance when walking and helping her to integrate socially when exposed to groups of people are additional benefits a service dog could provide.

The Tower of Hope sponsored the trainng and pairing of Jennifer and Emmett in 2010

Sue Downes and Service Dog Lila

Sue Downes

Sue lost both of her legs below the knee while serving in Afghanistan in 2006, surviving an IED attack on her Humvee that killed two fellow American soldiers. Sue is teamed with service dog "Lila", a yellow lab who serves as her walker/balance dog. Lila also assists Sue when she removes her prosthetics and transfers to and from her wheelchair. Lila is trained to pick up dropped items, retrieve items from high places, and turn lights on and off.

The Tower of Hope sponsored the training and pairing of Lila with Sue in 2007.

Joyce Van Horn and Service Dog Brigham

Joyce Van Horne

In 1995, Joyce was injured while serving on the US Navy aircraft carrier Abraham Lincoln. Her injury resulted in the loss of her hearing and caused a problem with her balance. Brigham, a smooth coat collie, was paired with Joyce providing the balance she needs while walking, and keeping her aware of important sounds in her environment. He wakes her up in the morning when the alarm clock rings, lets her know when someone is at the door or when the phone rings, and helps her respond to alarms and kitchen sounds.

The Tower of Hope sponsored the pairing of Joyce and Brigham in 2007.

Joe Keck and Service Dog Nolls

Joe Keck

Joe lost his left arm in a vehicle accident in Afghanistan in 2006 while serving in the Army as an E-4 Specialist. Joe is currently stationed in Fort Bragg, North Carolina. Joe intends to take Nolls, a black lab, with him to college. Nolls will assist Joe by picking up articles he might drop, opening doors, pressing automatic key pads, helping to pull off clothing, and barking on command should Joe need assistance.

The Tower of Hope sponsored the training and pairing of Nolls with Joe in 2007.

Elaine Laffan and Service Dog Lunar Sky

Elaine Laffan

With the help of her 26-month-old golden retriever, Lunar Sky, Elaine has started gardening again. Elaine, who has multiple sclerosis, has been able to take advantage of beautiful sunny days, instead of staying immobile inside her house. Elaine uses a wheelchair or walking cane, and relies on Lunar Sky to help her get around.

The Tower of Hope sponsored the training and pairing of Elaine and Lunar Sky in 2007.

Robert Evans and Service Dog Steve

Robert Evans

Robert Evans enlisted at the age of 17 and was 20 years old when he first deployed to Iraq in 2005, serving 15 months as an infantryman. He returned in 2007 for a second deployment. He was a Bradley tank commander when he was injured in an IED attack. In addition to compressing his spine, the explosion caused a traumatic amputation at the wrist. He spent six months recovering at Walter Reed Army Medical Center. Steve retrieves items that Robert can't reach, and provides stability support when his back injury is acting up. Steve also offers emotional comfort when Robert is feeling down. "If there's one thing I've learned from my injury," this veteran says, "it's that life's too short to be worried about small things, things out of your control."

The Tower of Hope sponsored the training and pairing of Steve and Robert in 2007.  To see Robert discuss the difference Steve has made, click here.

Michael Selleh and Service Dog Miracle

Michael Selleh

In his 16 years as career service military man, Staff Sergeant Michael Selleh has been deployed multiple times around the world. In December 2005, while preparing for another deployment to Iraq, he was injured in a training exercise, which resulted in hip and knee trauma. He then suffered a serious brain injury and a series of simultaneous strokes, leaving him with brain damage, including cognitive impairment and short-term memory loss. Sergeant Selleh spent two years in rehabilitation therapy at Walter Reed Army Medical Center, having to relearn "everything." Miracle is trained to help with balance and stability, giving Michael the time he needs to make a decision, as well as providing emotional comfort and reassurance.

The Tower of Hope sponsored the training and pairing of Miracle and Michael in 2008.

Lori Meshell and Service Dog Star

Lori Meshell

Army Sergeant Lori Meshell shattered a hip and crushed her back and knees during a mortar attack in Iraq. She has undergone hip replacement and knee reconstruction surgeries, and it is anticipated that she will need at least three more surgeries. Star, a black lab, helps Lori keep her balance when she walks, and provides support when she experiences severe pain. Star also retrieves items for her, and gives her unqualified affection and support.

The Tower of Hope sponsored the training and pairing of Star with Lori in 2008.

Josh Cooley and Service Dog Courage

Josh Cooley

Josh suffered a traumatic brain injury as a result of a roadside IED explosion in Iraq in which his vehicle caught fire. When his fellow soldiers realized he was still inside the vehicle, they rushed to extricate him, but not before Josh was severely burned. His left leg and arm are impaired due to decreased strength and coordination. Due to his head injury, speech and conversation are difficult. Courage is helping Josh in unbelievable ways. Josh is communicating again and can walk for brief periods, with Courage.

The Tower of Hope sponsored the training and pairing of Josh and Courage in 2009.

Grayson "Norris" Galatas and Service Dog Willie

Norris Galatas

Norris' career as a U.S. Army combat engineer was cut short in 2005 when he was injured while serving in Iraq. He has limited mobility and muscular weakness that is greatly helped by his balance dog Willie. Norris counts on Willie to help him get through the tough days of being tired from walking and to help him get up when he falls.

The Tower of Hope sponsored the training and pairing of Willie with Norris in 2009.



Lillian Boesch (R.I.P.) and Service Dog Gabriel

Lillian Boesch

The Tower of Hope sponsored the training and pairing of Lillian and Gabriel in 2009.

We are sorry to report that Lillian passed away in late March 2010 due to illness. Please click here to read her story. Gabriel has been reassigned to assist a new partner.


Jade Perry and Service Dog Katie Dawg

Jade Perry

Jade Perry suffers from Friedrich’s Ataxia, a rare inherited disorder that affects the nervous system and spinal cord, causing its victims to lose motor skills and have great difficulty in walking. In particular, Jade has poor balance, needs a cane to walk, and will typically fall several times each day. Jade has been paired with Katie Dawg, a two-year old Great Dane that provides support and balance.

The Tower of Hope sponsored the training and pairing of Jade and Katie Dawg in 2009.


Donald Nelson and Service Dog Rusty

Donald Nelson

Donald Nelson was wounded while serving in Vietnam. Since his return home, he has also been severely burned in an industrial accident and subsequently suffered a stroke, leaving him partially paralyzed. Despite his setbacks, Don maintains a positive attitude and strives to remain independent.

The Tower of Hope sponsored the training and pairing of Don and Rusty in 2009. Watch his video


Sandra Frazier and Service Dog Blue

Sandra Frazier

Sandra Frazier suffers from severe diabetes. She has extremely low blood pressure and is prone to suddenly losing consciousness. In addition, she often needs help walking, retrieving dropped items and getting up from a seated position.

Blue, her service dog, has been trained to assist Sandra in walking and rising, and other task including helping with the laundry (!) Blue has also been specifically trained to bring Sandra her cell phone after a fall.

The Tower of Hope sponsored the training and pairing of Sandra and Blue in 2009.

Melissa Stockwell and Service Dog Jake

Melissa Stockwell

Melissa was the first woman amputee from the Iraq/Afghanistan wars. She was in a humvee that was attacked and the explosion severed her left leg above the knee. She received the Purple Heart and a Bronze Star and retired from the army. Melissa has learned to compete in swimming and use some of the most advanced prosthetic devices. She is pursuing a career as a prosthetist. Jake helps Melissa do some of the things she can’t do when her prosthetic is removed, and provides incredible moral support.

The Tower of Hope sponsored the training and pairing of Melissa and Jake in 2009. Watch a video of Melissa's story.

Frank Pierson and Service Dog Leo

Frank Pierson

Frank lost both of his legs in Iraq when an IED exploded. Frank currently uses a wheelchair for mobility, and is hoping that Leo will help him transition more quickly to his new prosthetics. Due to his injuries (amputation of his left leg below the knee and right leg above the knee, balance will be a major issue. Retrieving items and helping with the wheelchair will keep Leo busy. Of course, Leo is trained to do these things, so Frank should be mobile very quickly.

The Tower of Hope sponsored the training and pairing of Frank with Leo in 2009.