Sacramento area veterans graduate 4 Paws 2 Freedom at Beale

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Alexandre Montes
  • 9th Reconnaissance Wing Public Affairs

Sacramento area veterans recently graduated a training program, alongside their four legged friends marking a milestone in their road to recovery.

4 Paws 2 Freedom, a non-profit organization, conducts a six-month program to help train certified services dogs for military veterans, first responders with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and victims of abuse. The first class began at Beale in the fall of 2018.

“We were introduced to Beale by Staff Sgt. Joyce Attwater,” Terry Sandhoff, 4 Paws 2 Freedom founder and master service dog trainer said. “We saw the opportunity here through the transition program to catch people before people are seriously affected by PTSD.”

The program began locally when Airmen from the 9th Reconnaissance Wing Chapel Staff and 9th Medical Operations Support Squadron connected with the Rocklin Residents Unite For Fido (RRUFF). Their combined efforts helped fuel the start of a service for local veterans.

“During my service I developed PTSD and for many years I’ve tried to find a route to deal with my PTSD,” Travis Johansen U.S. Navy veteran said. “I looked around to get in group and was on a waiting list for four years. A friend told me about this organization, so I put in an application and a week later heard back for an orientation. ”

Sandhoff’s program started when she felt that veterans need recovery before symptoms really take control of their lives. She wanted a holistic and reasonable system that really brought the veteran and their new friends together.

“This is a six-month program, because that’s normally the time it takes for someone to be medically discharged (from the military),” Sandhoff explained. “It gives the member time to work with and interact with their K-9’s. Even after graduation, there are alumni classes where veterans can help other veterans and continued to grow and learn.”

Sandhoff also mentioned that the program is not just for veterans with PTSD, but physical inabilities as well.

“I love the people, were all in here together,” Sandhoff said. “Even as a civilian all of us have PTSD it doesn’t matter where it comes from and I can relate to that. We are here to help you get to the next step to healing.”

As veterans progress some come back as teachers and help other along their healing process to connect with their K-9.

The Beale AFB graduation began with a few words, some certificates and maybe a small graduation cap for the dogs, if they wanted to wear it. However, in the end the real reward is the new friendships developed.

One of the main trainers is Stephen Barnett a U.S. Army veteran, who started with the program as a student.

“You know the dog is not going to lie to you, if they say everything is ok, it’s going to be ok,” Barnett said. “You have to trust them.”

Barnett is a survivor of suicidal ideations stemming from PTSD and remembers how far he’s come and how the program has helped. He started the two-year program and in just six month became a graduate.

“You have to trust yourself and believe in your self-worth, your team and your dog,” Barnett said. “If you put in the work, that is the ultimate for me. Seeing that change and trust from week one to graduation. They surprise themselves constantly and I’m so happy I can be a part of this and Beale decided this is important.”

How to find out more information or get involved with 4 Paws 2 Freedom go to