Port Angeles veteran’s new service dog doing double duty thanks to New Leash on Life

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PORT ANGELES — Jake Fish’s new service dog provides a service to his clients as well.

Megan, a 2-year-old golden retriever-Labrador retriever mix, was matched with Fish to aid with his post traumatic stress disorder.

Now, she also helps Fish, who was medically discharged from the Marine Corps in 1997, with his work at the Northwest Veterans Resource Center at 127 E. First St., Suite 4E.

“I feel like helping others as a service officer is a continuation of my duty,” said Fish, who works as a volunteer.

“[Megan] helps me do that as well. Vets will come into the office, and we’ll start going over the paperwork, which means talking about all the vets’ pain and issues they have.

“It can get kind of tense.

“Megan will get up from behind my desk and go to the person, and they just relax,” he said.

“She’s so happy and soft, they forget what they’re talking about that happened to them when they’re petting her. She lessens their anxiety of talking about stuff.”

New Leash on Life of Port Angeles placed Megan with Fish.

“[Megan] needed lots of training, but the will and ability to learn was evident,” said Cheryl Bowers, president and founder of the nonprofit that trains service dogs for veterans and others with disabilities.

When Bowers took Megan to meet Fish, “it was a match,” she said. “I had no doubt they would be a great team.”

Fish, 38, who also serves on the Green Alliance for Veteran Education board, said Megan has made a big difference in his life.

“The biggest thing about having Megan is that I’m not lonely,” Fish said.

“She gives me a feeling of companionship. I also know for a fact that she lowers my stress levels.

“She puts me in a good mood when I don’t want to be in one.”

Over the last 15 years, New Leash on Life, based at 183 Alderwood Creek Drive, has trained more than 100 canines to be service dogs.

Some have been from owners, while 29 have been rescue dogs.

“We have also trained four puppies to be service dogs,” Bowers said, adding that New Leash on Life is now taking applications for puppy-raisers.

New Leash also will evaluate older dogs if they need a new home, Bowers said.

“Rescue dogs are hard to find,” Bowers said.

“Mary Beth Wagner and her staff at the Olympic Peninsula Humane Society in Port Angeles are helping me screen the dogs to find the ones that might make a service dog.”

A core of volunteers helps with the training, although Bowers is the only qualified trainer, she said.

Training differs, according to the disability.

Dogs may undergo basic obedience training, public training and task training, in which they perform certain tasks for people.

Mobility dogs will retrieve objects, help when their owners are unstable and maybe help pull a wheelchair.

Psychological dogs help with PTSD or anxiety disorders. For instance, a dog will signal if a person needs to get out of a situation by using its nose to nudge or holding up a paw as a signal.

A hearing dog will notify its owner of a noise and take the person to it.

“I have also done a diabetic dog and have done a couple of seizure dogs,” Bowers said.

New Leash has 15 people on its waiting list for dogs.

Donations to the organization can be made through Strait View Credit Union, 220 S. Lincoln St., or by mail to 183 Alderwood Creek Drive, Port Angeles, WA, 98362.

For more information or for an application to raise a puppy, call 360-670-5860.

Last modified: June 16. 2014 6:47PM
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