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Citrus Heights Messenger

Disabled Veteran Gets ‘Best Buddy’

May 29, 2024 02:46PM ● By Susan Maxwell Skinner, photos by Susan Maxwell Skinner

It’s love at first sight. Veteran Dennis Deutscher meets his new friend, golden retriever Lily.


CARMICHAEL, CA (MPG) - A four-legged friend has quadrupled happiness for a Mather veteran with PTSD syndrome. Former US Navy electrician Dennis Deutscher (55) recently took delivery of a service-puppy-in-training, golden retriever Lily.

“It’s one of the brighter experiences of my life,” says Deutscher. “For me and Lily, the sky is blue and the sky’s the limit.”


Veteran Dennis Deutscher, kneeling in the center, and pup, Lily, are joined by service dog sponsors Al Gonzalez, RRUFF Healing Heroes; Higher Purpose Foundation supporter Teri O'Sullivan; Foundation President Whitney Webb; Vicki Curtis, RRUFF Healing Heroes, All Stage Canine Development owner Miranda Viani; and Yvette Kroesing, Creme Brulee Goldens. 


The adoption was made possible by a recent “Ride For Reason” fundraiser for the Carmichael-based Higher Purpose Foundation. Fronted by Tesla rock band singer Jeff Keith, the nonprofit organization sponsored a 400-rider motorbike convoy from Folsom to Roseville.

Although the event collided with a rainstorm, Keith and friends hung tough and raised $24,000. Proceeds will help youth in foster programs and have provided Deutscher with a golden-coated companion.

The veteran and pup introduction brought tears to many eyes. At All Stage Canine Development in Citrus Heights, the 12-week-old golden retriever jumped from a trainer’s arms, bounced past a dozen onlookers and claimed her future master.

 “How did she know it was me?” marveled the vet. “It was like someone sprayed me with some magic dust. She was excited and kissing me. I could help but tear up.” 

Deutscher’s military career ended in 1992. The aviation electrician serviced F 18 Fighters during Operation Desert Storm. At 19 years old, he was devastated by a 1989 explosion on board the supercarrier USS America.

“I was right by the explosion,” he recalled. “Two of my friends died. My PTSD came mostly from then. I fought things I’d seen, also the stress of long wartime hours. In my generation, we hid our feelings. I didn’t know I had PTSD ’til a couple of years ago. It cost me jobs and ruined relationships. Substance abuse was the only way I could calm my brain.”


Lincoln-based RRUFF Healing Heroes sponsors present a check contributing $5,000 toward the cost of service dog Lily’s training at All Stages Canine Development in Citrus Heights.


After his troubled years and a spell of homelessness, Deutscher is now drug-free and lives in Veterans Village, Mather, where he’s at last being treated for his emotional injuries.

“Lily is a game-changer,” he said of his new friend. “I had dogs growing up. I knew a service dog would brighten my days and be a huge support for me.”

Lily has not disappointed.

“She’s so good,” Deutscher said. “She sleeps by me and doesn’t move ’til I wake up. Then she puts her arms on my shoulders and kisses me to say good morning.

“From the moment I met her, it’s been awesome,” he said. “I feel my anxiety level has changed. She makes me calm. We go on walks and if people talk to her, she’ll give them a few seconds, then come right back to me. She never leaves my side. she’s my best buddy.”

A Tesla fan since high school in Lodi, Deutscher connected with the Higher Purpose Foundation, a cause his rockstar hero Keith supports, during the motorbike ride fundraiser.  

Explained Foundation President Whitney Webb, a Carmichael resident: “We’d decided to use some of our funds for a dog for a veteran. When I met Dennis, we talked and both ended up in tears. I knew right away he was meant to receive this gift.”

Bred by Crème Brulee Goldens, Sacramento, the dog’s initial food, veterinary costs and training are covered by the gift. RRUFF Healing Heroes, a Lincoln-based agency that sponsors service dog training for disabled veterans, also contributed $5,000 to training costs.

“I don’t see how Lily could be better than she already is,” Deutscher said.  “But we’ll learn skills together. If it makes her a better dog, it’ll make me a better person. 

“I’d wanted a service dog for some time. Because of the cost, it just wasn’t possible. Everyone involved in this gift has shown me love and compassion,” Deutscher said. “It’s truly a God thing that they found me and gave me this fantastic companion.”

Learn about the Higher Purpose Foundation at www.higherpurposefoundation.org.

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