B.J. Ganem, a Wisconsin Marine, was serving in Iraq in 2004 when an explosive device struck the Humvee he was driving. This left him with several shrapnel wounds, a mild brain injury, and an amputated leg. He was immediately relieved of his duty and sent home to the Maryland-based Walter Reed Army Medical Center to recover.
While in the hospital, he realized how essential a service dog would be for him and his fellow veterans during those difficult times. So he decided to study the service dog industry, where he found out that getting one was expensive, amounting to at least $65,000.
In addition, most organizations that trained and placed these highly-trained canines with veterans had too many requirements and wouldn’t even get the recipient’s opinion on the dog. B.J. also learned that most veterans needed not only a service dog but a pet at the same time. Unfortunately, most service dogs didn’t fit the latter role.
To address these concerns, the Marine veteran decided to form his own organization called Sierra Delta in 2017. The charity also focused on training service dogs for veterans. But what set them apart from the other organizations was that instead of placing the pup with a particular veteran, they would let the veteran choose their dog for themselves.
The best part was that all the dog choices would be rescues. This was B.J.’s way of saving the thousands of shelter dogs that were killed every year.
To avail of a Sierra Delta service dog, a veteran needs only to prove that they served in the armed forces. They would then be allowed to pick their dog, and Sierra Delta would train both the handler and the pup about communication and setting a daily routine.
So far, the organization had helped over 340 veterans get their service dogs. Look at one of the people they helped here.
Courtesy of Sierra Delta