DEWYVILLE – Raelene Penman, of Dewyville, trains all dogs but her passion is service dogs. The retired Salt Lake County police officer has trained dogs since she was 18 years-old, and this year she’s worked with over 100 dogs.
“I think people who truly need a service dog should be able to have one,” she said. “A service dog is truly the Ultimate Medical Device.”
She has a list of people who had their life changed because of a service dog she trained.
Penman finds dogs and helps train them for veterans who are suffering from emotional and physical challenges.
Some charge $30,000 to $100,000 to train a service dog. Penman only charges $3,000 to $15,000 for her services.
One Utah veteran, Josh Abrams, 34, of Taylorsville, left the Army National Guard after 14 years of service due to health issues. Twelve of those years he was active duty with a two-year stint in Iraq.
Abram got a Belgian Malinois from someone who thought the dog was too aggressive to train. Her name is Sabot.
“Even after I trained her, she was still aggressive,” Abrams said. “Raelene gave me some tips. It changed everything.”
Penman has a different training method than most trainers.
“Now Sabot is my shadow, she goes everywhere with me,” Abrams said. “My life has completely changed.”
He said there are good reasons well-trained service dogs make such good companions.
“For me, the reason dogs actually work is they don’t judge, they love,” he said. “When you are in a dark place and you don’t think you could be happy again, a service dog can change that.”
Abrams admitted he had suicidal thoughts; he had lost all hope and his mind and body were fighting against his soul.
“That’s why Raelene’s work is so important,” Abram said. “She’s helped more people than I can count get their life back.”
He credits Penman and Sabot for making his life better.
Penman’s primary goal is to find dogs for veterans with PTSD and other disabilities.
“I taught Josh how to train dogs and gave him 10 dogs that cost over $10,000 each,” Penman said. “The dogs he trained are already out with veterans.”
Helping Abrams find a job gave him purpose and helped his healing, she said.
Abram said it is really neat to watch a new owner and their new dog for the first time.
”Watching the connection when the dog meets his owner for the first time,” Abrams said, “it is powerful moment.”
Penman said the dogs are not just dogs that walk around and comfort their owners.
“A true service dog can be seen but not heard,” she said. “A true service dog can walk into a place and not be noticed by people.”
The dogs must also be able to do tasks besides being well behaved.
“The bottom dollar is we are trying to raise funds,” Penman said. The funds help get more trained dogs to more veterans who need them.
They are working with the James L. Anderson unit of the Marine Corp League Auxiliary unit 476.
“We partnered with them to raise money to train dogs, as well as other needs for veterans.”
Darcy Anderson, who works with the auxiliary, said she could see the work Penman was doing could benefit more veterans.
“I told her the auxiliary would help train dogs for veterans,” Anderson said. “We are always raising money for veteran’s issues and for their families.”
If people would like to donate to help the cause, contact the unit via Facebook, at Facebook.com/mcla476.
“We just want to save lives,” Penman said.