Duluth Veteran Gets New Service Dog Thanks to Community Support

Alejandra Palacios
Updated: November 11, 2019 09:29 PM

Community members are making a happy ending possible for a Duluth veteran who lost his service dog this summer.


Athena, a long haired four-month-old German Shepherd, disappeared on July 30 after being startled by a truck when she was outside with her owner. She ran off and her owner wasn't able to run after her because of his physical disability.

Efforts were made to find her and get her back home but unfortunatly, she was never found. It was a difficult loss for Gulf War veteran Michael Drinkwater. He had lost hope after losing Athena. But now, with help from the community, a new dog named Zeus will fill that void.

Zeus is an almost 10 week old German Shepherd.

Amy Laessig, who runs Paws-itively Superior Dog Training, said the attention the missing dog got on social media had many community members reach out. They stepped in to help Drinkwater.

“Oh, it means the world. I mean, right now, it is really just his main hope for everything,” said Laessig.

One day, an anonymous donor came forward and offered to pay for Zeus. Laesigg is now training Zeus to help Drinkwater when he falls and will alert and calm him down when he has a PTSD episode. Zeus is getting trained to give Drinkwater the attention he needs and the quality of life he deserves.

“Zeus will be trained to help him in those times when he needs help with stability,” said Laessig.

Laessig said the Gulf War exposed service members like Drinkwater to chemicals that caused him to have some neurological and physical disabilities.

Drinkwater has been getting plenty of donations of dog food, toys, and leashes from community members and local pet stores. Laessig said she is happy things turned around for him.

"Things happen for a reason and God has a plan for everything, and despite how sad it was what happened with Athena, I think it's really meant to be. Zeus is going to be the dog that he needs and will help him,” said Laessig.

She describes Zeus as a smart and outgoing puppy.

“He’s very confident which is a good quality for a service dog. He's very eager to please and he wants to learn,” said Laessig.

Through her 35 years in training dogs, she has seen the impact this has for those who rely on them.

“These veterans, they are willing to give their life for our country and they come back and they have these emotional and physical disabilities,” said Laessig. “The truth is that (service dogs) they're very vital and it really does a lot for helping people.”

She said Drinkwater visits Zeus and is looking forward to having Zeus with him soon. Drinkwater has some background in dog training too. He worked with dogs in the army and helped train them.

Once Zeus is trained, he'll go to his new home and be the service dog that fills the void Athena left.

“Zeus is going to be his hero, he's gonna be the reason that Michael succeeds and has a healthy, happy life,” said Laessig.


Alejandra Palacios

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