For the past 16 months, a black Labrador retriever named Deku has spent time on the East Coast with his puppy raising family. He has grown up preparing for his journey to become a service animal for a person in need. On May 13, the day came for this full of energy dog to travel back to the Slymar, Calif., campus of Guide Dogs of America | Tender Loving Canines (GDA | TLC), the IAM’s favorite charity, to officially begin his training. 

Deku was raised by IAM Veterans Service Coordinator Bryan Stymacks, his wife and two sons, who volunteered to take care of him on his upbringing.

“We hope Deku will become a service animal for a veteran with PTSD,” said Stymacks. “Being able to see the GDA | TLC facility where the puppies are raised how the breeding and training works is truly amazing. Deku will be in great hands.”

Traveling along to GDA | TLC was IAM Retiree and Membership Assistance Director James “Stretch” Little.

“I finally got to go out there and see the first hand of what GDA | TLC can do,” said Little. “I look forward to taking this information back to the membership whether it be PTSD, a person who is visually impaired or autistic child, whatever it is I believe that our department at headquarters will have a hand in everything that these dogs do.”   

It will take six months to a year or more to see what special abilities Deku has and the program he will be trained in.

“I want to thank the Stymacks Family for raising Deku and all the puppies raisers everywhere,” said GDA | TLC President Russ Gittlen. “This program only works when families take these puppies and raise them to training age.”

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