VA Dogs' mission would be impossible without the support of our trainers.

 
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Caleb Owens

Caleb Owens

 
John Zepeda

John Zepeda

 
Ryan Smith

Ryan Smith

 

VA Dogs & Hill Country Dog Center

VA Dogs of Texas has recently contracted with the professional trainers at Hill Country Dog Center which will allow us to significantly increase the number of Service Dogs we can graduate and place this fiscal year.

Hill Country Dog Center, LLC (HCDC) is an established, veteran-owned small business and professional canine training center.  Mike and his staff are regarded as the most pragmatically selected and qualified canine trainers in the field.  Under his guidance and leadership, HCDC has given rise to the most accomplished multi-purpose detection canine service company in the world to aid in the national security and anti-terrorism global effort. HCDC is the most trusted provider of canine services to the United Sates Government and Foreign Governments.  Its canines and canine teams can be found around the world serving as proof as this program's success.

To date, HCDC continues to provide training and services to multiple State Police and Sheriff Departments and State Highway Patrol units, as well as procuring canines for contracts with the Federal Government stateside and abroad.

 

Caleb Owens

Caleb Owens came to VA Dogs highly recommended through Hill Country Dog Center where he currently works as a trainer/ handler. Caleb is a Marine Corps Veteran who also served as a Military Police Officer and Military Working Dog Handler. Caleb has trained and handled various types of dogs including patrol, tracking, narcotic detection, explosive detection and has experience training others to understand and handle dogs.

 
 

John P. Zepeda

John Zepeda is currently a Police Officer with The Metropolitan Transit Authority assigned to The Patrol Division. John has worked with the Authority for twenty seven years in a variety of assignments which include bicycle patrol, motorcycle patrol and a recent assignment in the canine division for the past eight years. 

While assigned to the canine unit John worked three canines. Two of the canines were green canines that John helped train under the direction of a Master Trainer from green canine to a certified Police Patrol Canine / Explosive Detection Canine. The canine teams worked several major events The World Series, NCAA Final Four, NBA All Star game, Chevron Marathon and The Superbowl. John is a certified patrol decoy and was assigned as an assistant explosive detection canine instructor. 

John while off duty was involved in training canines in weight pulling competitions and Confirmation shows and traveled all over the United States successfully winning competitions. While serving in the United States Air Force for six years, John initially became involved in Schutzenhund training while stationed in Germany.

 

Ryan Smith

Ryan is a former United States Marine Dog Handler and served with the 3rd Marine Expeditionary Force Kennels in Okinawa, Japan.
In addition to that, Ryan was assigned to the Specialized Search Dog Course at Lackland, AFB, San Antonio, TX for 1 year as an instructor and trainer. After separating from The Marine Corps, Ryan worked with Battle Buddy Service Dogs in the Kansas City area assisting veterans and dogs to become certified service dog teams. After that, he worked at the Baghdad American Embassy compound as an explosive detection dog handler.

 
 
 
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Paul Belcher

Paul grew up in the military, and began learning about training dogs from his uncle during the 60's and 70's.  After serving in the Navy, he self-trained an assistance dog for himself following a motorcycle accident, and went on to train that dog for demonstrations with the Nimitz Museum and the Texas Military Forces Museum from 1991-2000 using the USMC Silent Scout Training Manual.  He has since worked with us as a team trainer for our Veterans living in the Kerrville area.