NewsPositively Utah


Service dog and veteran meet for the first time thanks to Utah nonprofit

Posted at 7:03 AM, Feb 20, 2024
and last updated 2024-02-20 09:03:40-05

SALT LAKE CITY — A veteran of the United States Marine Corps has a new service dog thanks to the help of a Utah nonprofit.

Adam Griffin served for 12 years in the Marines including two combat tours in the Middle East. His primary role in the military was as a K-9 handler working with explosive sniffing dogs.

When he retired from the Marines in 2014, he felt he had lost a part of his identity,

“For 12 years I had a dog glued to my hip,” he reflected. “When I got out, that dog went away. It was like a hole. Just a missing piece to the puzzle in my life.”

Griffin connected with Labs for Liberty, a nonprofit that trains dogs to be paired with military veterans.

Back in December, FOX 13 News featured Labs for Liberty as they were training a dog named Apollo to be paired with Griffin.

Last week, Griffin and his family traveled to Utah from their home in Florida to meet Apollo for the first time.

“I’m just looking forward to what Apollo is going to bring to the table,” he said. “He fills that big void I had of not having a dog on my left side for years.”

For months, Apollo received training from Hailey O’Connell, a trainer with Labs for Liberty. Hours of work with the dog led to the moment connecting Adam with Apollo.

After building a bond with the dog for nearly a year, O'Connell said it's bittersweet to say goodbye, but is happy to see the K-9 flourish in a new chapter.

“I am sad to see him go, but it's so worth it. I’d do it 100 times more,” O'Connell reflected. “It's already been so amazing to see the impact he’s made and how he’s already so locked in on Adam.”

After less than 24 hours together, Apollo showed attentiveness to his new owner, sitting by his side and waiting for a command.

Griffin expects he will provide support in a number of ways.

“I am not good with crowds. I’m not the greatest with people,” he explained. “Being that I have the dog takes the focus off of me – everybody focuses on the dog.”

Griffin credits Labs for Liberty with helping scores of veterans get their lives back on track after they serve their county.

“It’s adding to my support network. It's adding to my friend network. They [Labs for Liberty] are just amazing,” he said.

He also credits the organization with caring for veterans' well-being long after receiving a service dog.