Command Sergeant Major showcases the importance of service dogs after retiring from the Army

Posted at 10:59 AM, Oct 05, 2022
and last updated 2022-10-05 12:59:51-04

NAMPA, Boise — CSM Gretchen Evans reached the highest enlisted rank in the U.S. Army in an era when not many women were in charge of leading 30,000 troops, but after 27 years, a rocket blast in Afghanistan ended her career.

"I came back with injuries that were hard to navigate and the hardest injury was my deafness because I had been a hearing person for 46 years," said Evans. "Literally in a matter of a millisecond I became a deaf person.”"

Gretchen has a service dog named Rusty and the two of them spoke to a group of veterans at the Warhawk Air Museum, the Command Sergeant Major talked about how Rusty alerts Gretchen to sounds around her, makes her feel more secure and gave her back her independence.

“It was amazing," said Gary Leonhardt, a U.S. Navy veteran. "Gretchen’s story highlighted the need for these animals to be trained to help the veterans because in her case it saved her life."

Gretchen Evans is traveling around the country doing speaking engagements to raise awareness for the Dogs Save Lives Campaign through Dogtopia, a dog boarding business that helps raise money to get vets service dogs.

"Dogtopia is one of the premiere doggy day care and boarding organizations in the United States," said Evans.

Dogtopia just opened their first business in Boise and has plans to bring three more to the Treasure Valley, besides taking care of dogs this nationwide business focuses on three pillars.

"We raise money to sponsor service dogs, we also raise money to do programs for youth literacy and then we have employment for adults with autism," said Dale Goff of Dogtopia. "That is one of the ones that is dear to my heart, we have two younger children that we adopted from Russia who are on the spectrum, they are engaged and we love having them here."

The Dogs Save Lives campaign goes until Veterans Day as people can donate or purchase a shirt and 100 percent of the proceeds go towards helping veterans like Gretchen Evans, who had her life changed in a big way when she got Rusty.

"Miraculous, in the sense that we are used to having a battle buddy when we are in the military, that man or woman that has your six," said Evens. "We miss that when we leave the service and I think that for all the things that Rusty does for me, just his presence makes me feel secure."