Kirk and Little: Next Step Service Dog Highlight
Here at Furvor, we appreciate our pups as members of our family, and understand how impactful they are on our lives. We strive to give back to them as they give us so much by offering products that support their health and development at all stages of life. Beyond nutrition, Furvor wants other people’s lives to be changed by these impactful companions. That is why this year, Furvor has decided to donate 1% of our annual sales to two service dog organizations, Good Dog! Service Canines, and Next Step Service Dog. Today, we will highlight Kirk and Little’s experience with Next Step Service Dog.
Next Step Service Dog aims to improve and renew the lives of Veterans and First Responders living with both visible and invisible injuries such as PTSD and Traumatic Brain Injuries with the placement of custom-trained service dogs. They support clients in training their own dogs for service or pairing them with suitable donated dogs to train. Next Step does not charge for service dogs or their training and supports each dog through its lifetime!
In this article, we are excited to show you just how impactful service dogs are through the experience of Kirk, who is diagnosed with PTSD, and Little, his service dog who was trained and matched with him through Next Step Service Dog’s program.
Kirk is a caring husband and father who served in the army national guard, wanting to do his part for our country. He trained in California for 7 months before going on tour to Iraq in August of 2000, shipping out for basic training six days after 9/11. He spent a year in Iraq before coming back to the US, where he chased a girl to California. When he came back for Christmas, he proposed to her and they have been married since 2005.
Living in the US after his tour in Iraq posed various challenges, some of which he wasn’t even aware of himself. After being back for fifteen years, his daughter was the one to bring it to his attention, helping him recognize the symptoms of PTSD to be able to get help. One of his friends recommended him to Next Step Service Dogs after he heard and saw how much these dogs can help individuals suffering with PTSD and other injuries both mental and physical.
Next Step helped match Kirk to Little. As the dogs come in, veterans are introduced to them and get a weekend with potential matches. If there is a mutual connection between the dog and the individual, they are paired and get to train together to learn commands and develop their relationship before taking their service pup home. Kirk and Little found this mutual match in each other, and the rest is history.
For over a year now, Kirk and Little have been inseparable, and Little has opened up Kirk’s world in a way he hasn’t experienced since before Iraq. Little is a yellow lab and has a calming presence like no other. Kirk describes her as a small package with the kindest brown eyes that he’s ever seen. When people look at her, she has caring human eyes that look back. She’s very smart and knows advanced commands. For example, Kirk has a word for when he gets worked up and she immediately comes up to his knee or up to his head while he’s driving so that he doesn’t start spiraling. Kirk also has diabetes, and Little notices when his blood sugar gets too high, rushing to his aid.
Kirk has many memorable moments with Little, and some of his favorite ones involve all the adventures he can now go on thanks to her. Recently, he’s started to learn how to paddle board together. He tried surfing before Covid, but didn’t have the confidence to go until he met Little. Now, they go together to a doggy surf training center called Sup Pups and he hopes to get her on a surfboard soon.
Little is more than just a support for Kirk, but his friends as well. He brings her to yoga where she brightens everyone’s day. His friends have benefitted from having Little around, and she’s encouraged some of them to look into getting support from service dogs as well. He used to ride motorcycles, and Semper Fi America gave him a padded basket to sit in for motorcycle rides so he can enjoy them the way he used to years ago.It’s clear Little has made a lasting impact on Kirk, and she’s completely changed his life for the better. She opened his eyes to how much of himself he had shut down due to lasting effects from his service, and his confidence has been rebuilt with Little. He’s been able to get out and do things that bring him renewed relief and joy, and it’s allowed him to understand some of the effects it’s had on his wife and kids. Kirk and Little are thankful for the support Next Step gets from all donors. These dogs truly change lives, and the veteran community has experienced that through Next Step. To learn more about Next Step, check out their website.