A Special Duo
The story of a service dog team’s serendipitous match
By Chad Jeremy Brink Jr.
My name is Chad Jeremy Brink Jr. I am a disabled 29 year old. I suffer from autistic spectrum disorder, Tourette syndrome, and non-epileptic seizures. Due to this, I live with my mother, who has helped through many ups and downs with trying to get my disabilities at a manageable state. Throughout the year, my disabilities have gotten worse to the point that my mom suggested I get some four-legged help.
At first I did not want a service dog, even though I knew it would help me with several of my disabilities. I did not want to put as much work as I knew I had to, to train the dog so that he/she could take care of me. But in 2021, I visited my father for Thanksgiving, and while I was there we visited his best friend, Mike, to hang out at his house and visit his family who have not seen me in years. Mike has a service dog for his diabetes; his name is Blue. While I spent the night there, Blue decided to sleep next to me. It was the best night sleep I had in years. The next day, one of Dad’s friends said some things she should not have, and caused me severe anxiety along with making my Tourette’s near uncontrollable. Mike offered to have Blue sleep with me again, and I said no thank you. I could not sleep at all, until one of Mike’s cats came over, and he calmed me down enough to sleep. The next morning, I called my mother and told her the story. We both decided that I finally needed to get a dog and train him to be my service dog.
Mom started the search while I was finishing my visit with my father. She called me one morning to say that a member of our church helps breeders find homes for their puppies. One of the breeders was willing to give us a puppy for free if we were willing to do all the service dog training. I said yes that very instant, knowing that this was a great blessing that was put in front of me. I could not wait to get back home to see my new four-legged best friend. When I got home, I went to the house of one of our church members who has service dogs to meet the puppy that would change my life forever.
When I got there, the breeder brought out this big white fluffy puppy. I sat on the floor and without any prompting, he walked over and laid down right in my lap. At that moment I knew he was meant to come home with me. Leonidas, Leo for short, became the newest member of the family, and I was sure that Leo was special. It was not until one fantastic night that I realized how special he was.
My mom and I had Leo for about two months and were debating on when to get Leo trained to be my service dog. One Sunday night, I was taking Leo out for his nightly walk; everything was going well until I started shaking. I was beginning to have a seizure and as I fell to the ground, Leo—without any training—pushed me up against a chain-link fence so that I did not fall and hurt myself. I was able to get on one knee to stabilize myself, where I proceeded to hold on to Leo as I shook. While I was convulsing, Leo kept licking my face to make sure I was still awake and aware of what was going on. After a while, Leo pulled me along to the nearby school, where I called mom to meet us. She came by and picked us up, and as I was explaining what happened, we both knew he was more than ready for training.
The church member who has service dogs gave me a few contacts of organizations that provide service dog training. One of the organizations was Dog Training Elite. I set up an appointment to do an in-home evaluation, where a trainer, by the name of Jeff Slack, showed us what we could expect from the training. We were both impressed and knew that DTE was the right choice for us. As the weeks went past, Leo took to all the training exceedingly well. When he was less than a year old, I would take him to stores and restaurants where we got to play my favorite game, guess how old my dog is. People would see how well behaved and big Leo was, and I would ask them how old they thought he was. They would guess three or four and when I told them how old he really was, they were shocked. I would then tell them that it was all thanks to Dog Training Elite.
Leo is now a fully certified service dog and has done amazing work with helping me manage my Tourette’s and seizures. Leo and I just went to visit my father and grandparents in Seattle for my birthday. Leo did an amazing job with the TSA, and everyone loved him on the airplane. In fact, the stewardesses gave Leo wings for his very first flight. While I was visiting family and friends, everyone was very impressed with both Leo and me, because it was clear that we both put the time and effort in so that Leo could be the life saver I knew he could be.
“Chad is everything we hope for as a service training client. He soaked up as much information as he could from all of our trainers. You could see with each lesson how much he had worked with Leo. It was truly beautiful to watch their bond grow and their friendship flourish. All of our staff loves to hear updates about Chad and Leo’s new adventures. Seeing Chad’s life change with the help of Leo has been a joy. We are honored to have been a part of their story and are happy to have them in our Dog Training Elite family.”
– Oakley Gurr, Director of Operations at Dog Training Elite