After waiting almost a year, Marine Veteran Shawn Dalton got his service dog. The nonprofit American Warrior Initiative, funded by Fairway Independent Mortgage Corporation, was able to cut his wait short. Together with Custom Canines Service Dog Academy, the nonprofits surprised Dalton by gifting him Tango the Golden-Doodle.
Dalton has been training 2-year-old Tango with the nonprofit for a few weeks. But he's been on the waiting list for nearly a year. Yet, Dalton says the wait hadn't discouraged him because "the dogs are well worth it."
American Warrior Initiative hosted a conference and Dalton thought he was being invited to that. But, it was just a cover explains the nonprofit's president Louise Thaxton.
"[It's a] very special award for a deserving veteran who is going to receive a service dog, a big surprise," smiles Thaxton.
Conference attendees welcomed Dalton and Custom Canines to the front of the room. Then broke the news to him that Tango was his.
"He is going to bring out the best in me," said Dalton about his new service dog.
While Dalton and Tango are a perfect fit, says Custom Canines' President Nicole Meadowcroft, unfortunately, many other vets aren't that lucky.
"We approximately have a two to five-year waiting list at this time. There's definitely a lot more people that need a service dog," said Meadowcroft.
Custom's waiting list is 60 percent veteran need. But Meadowcroft says funding, time, volunteers, and trainers are needed to get those men and women service animals.
Fortunately for Dalton and Tango, their wait is over. Dalton says there is one thing he's most looking forward to doing with Tango.
"Just getting back to being normal," said Dalton.