Dave Shade.

Dave Shade is a former paratrooper who now owns a dog-training company, At Attention Dog Training.
Shade’s career began when he was fostering dogs and couldn’t pay for the training, so he learned how to do it himself.
This is what Shade’s job is like, as told to freelance writer Susan Johnston Taylor.

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Dave Shade is a former paratrooper who now owns a dog-training school, At Attention Dog Training. This is his story, as told to freelance writer Susan Johnston Taylor.

I always wanted a dog, but my mom didn’t think I’d take care of it.

At 19, I was serving in Afghanistan and our lead vehicle was struck by an improvised explosive device. Usually, I drove that vehicle. But on that day, a game of “Rock, Paper, Scissors” decided that my crew would go for hot chow and a shower instead. The guy who was in my seat – my friend Private Jordan Goode – died from his wounds.

Another time, our platoon got ambushed and a rocket-propelled grenade went screaming across my vehicle. We got hit with improvised explosive devices several more times. I blew out my knees and bit the sides of my tongue off.

After serving for four years, I came home to Pennsylvania with a Purple Heart – and a case of post-traumatic stress disorder. The army trains us not to have empathy. Numbing myself made me an effective fighter, but it came at a cost. PTSD feels like you’re in a dead dark pit with no one to talk to and no lifelines.

Dave Shade.

Now that I was grown up and living in an apartment by myself, I finally got a dog. Lulu was a boxer puppy, maybe 10 weeks old at the time. The very first night, I woke up to the smell of puppy poop, and I was on my knees cleaning it up. But a bond formed between us. Lulu taught me to control my anger. She taught me how to live again, how to love again, how to feel again.

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A few months later, my then-girlfriend (future wife) moved in, and we volunteered at an animal shelter. I was going to school for environmental biology, which I thought I’d do for a while before pivoting to do something with dogs, maybe in my 50s.

We were fostering dogs, and I wanted to help the dogs with behavioral issues but I didn’t know what I was doing. We reached out to all these different dog trainers in our area, but I didn’t have much money and was left on my own.

When we adopted a second dog named Sammy from a shelter, I started researching how to become a dog trainer and start my own training business. I was so sold on the idea, in fact, that I dropped out of my senior year of college to pursue it.

Dave and Lesley Shade.

US animal shelters are …read more

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