service dogs for veterans help those with PTSD
service dogs for veterans help those with PTSD
Volunteering & Giving
October 29, 2015

Veteran: ‘He’s a good companion who has my back’

The Marine veteran who received Dean, a service animal trained by a Wells Fargo team member, says the dog “gave me my life back.”

When Steve Hinrich plays with his dog, all his stress disappears.


“With my post-traumatic stress disorder, there’s so much chaos in my head,” Steve says. “He takes that stress away.”

Dean and Steve
Dean and Steve.

Steve, of Sioux Falls, South Dakota, is a veteran of the U.S. Marine Corps. In September 2015, he received Dean, a black English Labrador retriever service dog from Puppy Jake Foundation. The Des Moines nonprofit is dedicated to helping military veterans by placing trained service dogs with them.

Rhonda Hildreth, a research and remediation analyst in Home Mortgage for Wells Fargo, trained Dean for about a year and a half before he was placed with Steve. Steve describes meeting Dean: “He gave me a great big bear hug.”

“It was such a relief,” Steve says. “I’ve been waiting a while for this.”

‘A good companion’

Steve was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder in 2010 after experiencing trauma during his service from 1993 to 1997 and sustaining a brain injury in 2008. After his diagnosis, his wife, Beverly, found information about service dogs and Puppy Jake Foundation.

Dean and Steve meeting for the first time in September 2015.
Dean and Steve meet for the first time in September 2015.

After being matched with Dean, Steve attended a two-week training session to learn about public etiquette for service dogs, the skills Dean has, and basic dog care.

Before receiving Dean, Steve says he hadn’t been out much in public in a long time. In their first few weeks at home, Dean and Steve have attended hockey games and played golf.

“He has helped me be in a large crowd without thinking someone is after me,” Steve says. “He’s a good companion who has my back. My wife doesn’t have to drop everything now if I want to do something.”

When Steve feels anxious, Dean can sense it, he says. Dean will put his head on Steve’s knee or lean into him as if to remind Steve that he is in a safe place.

“Puppy Jake Foundation and their volunteers have done a great job with these dogs, and Dean, especially,” Steve says. “I’ll help them as much as I can because they gave me my life back.”