golden retriever service dog and woman sitting on park bench

Unleashing Hope: The Journey of Suzanne Juarez and her Service Dog KC

After 28 faithful years of teaching, Suzanne (Susie) Juarez knew she wanted to work with veterans or animals in the next season of her life. After retiring she found herself wondering which way life would take her. Turns out, she didn’t have long to wait. After learning about ASDEC, the Assistance Service Dog Educational Center, and the impact this non-profit organization had in training service dogs for veterans in her community, she quickly signed up to volunteer. And on that fateful day in 2017, her path led her straight into the paws of KC - an adorable, energetic, and frankly gorgeous Golden Retriever and service-dog-in-training! Today, Suzanne is Secretary and Board Member at ASDEC and loves to tell anyone who will listen that “KC picked her”. They have been inseparable ever since. 

We recently asked Susie to share about her experience with KC, ASDEC, and the impact that she has seen in the lives of those who work with and rely on service dogs every single day. We are happy to share her insights with you today, in honor of National Therapy Dog Day

How did you get involved with service dogs and ASDEC? 

“I read an article in the newspaper about how a local veteran was able to acquire a service dog that changed his life, allowing him to adjust to life with his PTSD as long as he had Ivy by his side 24/7! He had been blessed with Ivy who was trained and certified at the Assistance Service Dog Educational Center in Woodlake. I called the center, made a visit, and have been volunteering since 2017.

Being a volunteer for the last four years and a Board Member with ASDEC for the last three has made my retirement wishes come true! I get to witness firsthand the incredible differences service dogs make in the lives of veterans, children and clients with medical issues. And I can’t say enough about how my life has been changed having KC with me 24/7!”  

woman with her service therapy dog

What kind of impact do you see KC and other service dogs having on the lives of the people they work with? 

Service Dogs WORK! As the wife of a combat veteran, I wish the VA would offer any veteran with PTSD a service dog if they request one. They tend to only prescribe medications. My husband was a veteran, and when he had nightmares, KC would wake him up and stop the dream by laying on his chest. He innately knew how to address my husband’s PTSD, simply by being there for him, as well as in instances of social anxiety.

KC alerts others as well! One time at church, he even alerted an elderly man sitting next to me. I asked him if he was a diabetic, and he asked me how I knew. I told him that my dog, KC, just alerted him, and he should check his blood sugar! We have been close friends ever since.”

two ASDEC service dogs, golden retriever and doodle, sitting next to fountain

How do you think KC feels about the work he does?  

I believe he loves serving people, especially me! He has a sign on his vest that states, "Please ask to pet me". I always let people pet him because I know that he is able to ease anxiety, and loves everyone he meets!  If they ask, I ALWAYS let veterans benefit from his love! 

He loves kids, and all people, and was recently in the play Annie, as Sandy, the stray dog that Annie found. He also visits classrooms, senior citizen homes, and community service events to share the jobs that service dogs do. He loves my four granddaughters, and loves to go to the beach with them! He is my constant companion, and flys with me when I travel. He loves to travel! KC also mentors the pups at ASDEC when I go to train service dogs twice a week.” 

How has having KC as your service dog changed your life?

“KC has saved my life! He and I bonded from the beginning, and I had no idea that he would excel at detecting low blood sugars. When my blood sugar is low, he alerts me by licking my hand, and giving me his paw. He watches me, and if he doesn't see me check my blood sugar, he continues to give me his paw! Having been a Type 1 diabetic since I was 7 years old, KC has been a tremendous, life-saving blessing in my life since he became my service dog in 2018.”

happy service dog with badge outside in the sun

In reflecting on Susie and KC’s journey, one can't help but be moved by the profound impact of their partnership. From the moment KC entered Susie's life, it was clear that fate had intervened, guiding her toward a purposeful path of service and companionship. Moreover, Susie’s insights into the broader impact of therapy and service dogs in today's society underscore the urgent need for greater recognition and support for these invaluable companions. As Susie continues to share KC's story and advocate for the vital role of service dogs, she reminds us of the boundless capacity for love, empathy, and service that exists within these remarkable animals. Through their unwavering dedication and compassion, dogs like KC inspire us to embrace the power of connection and kindness, making the world a brighter and more compassionate place for all. 

To learn more about ASDEC or volunteer, check out their website:

ASDEC was founded in 2002 by Donna and Gerald Whittaker to keep at-risk Woodlake High School students in school by teaching them how to train service dogs for those who need them. As a nonprofit 501c3 organization, they are dedicated to improving the lives of people in need. ASDEC has placed over 300 service dogs since their inception, and finds great joy in being an educator to their community. ASDEC provides multiple types of service dogs for individuals with mental, medical, or physical disabilities. They train seizure and diabetic response, hearing alert, mobility assistance, autism support, and PTSD service dogs to clients and veterans. 

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Written by

Sara Nadeau

Published on

24 Apr 2024

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