Return to Heal has been founded by two of our great nation’s Military Working Dog Handler/Trainers. One a soldier and one a Marine, both co-founders have extensive experience training many MWD’s and handlers as along with extensive combat experience overseas. With the knowledge of how our MWD’s impacted our lives, we at Return to Heal want to share that experience with fellow disabled veterans. With the ability to better understand our fellow disabled veterans while sharing similar challenges after deployment, we want to share our similar successes which comes with having a canine companion.
Meet Our Founders
Jason Harvey, Co-Founder
As a young boy, Jason grew up in upstate New York, learning the ways of his grandfather. This included learning dogs which were used for rabbit hunting.
As Jason grew up he gained the responsibility of taking care of his grandfathers Beagle dogs. After high school, Jason tried a few semesters at a local community college and became discouraged with the prospect of going to school for four more years. This is where he learned about he opportunities of the Marine Corps and joined on March 6, 2000.
He signed up to join as a basic military policeman. After three months of boot camp in Paris Island, South Carolina, Jason was sent to Fort Leonard-wood, MO, to attended Military Police School.
During his time in MP school, Jason learned about speciality fields in the MP field such as becoming a K-9 Handler. Jason was given orders to MWD Handlers course in San Antonio, Texas. Jason attended K-9 handlers course for three months and graduated top of his class. He was sent to his first Marine Corps duty station, Camp Pendleton, California.
Jason arrived to Pendleton February 2, 2001. Jason had no idea that in 8 months his life would completely change after the September 11 attacks in New York.
Immediately after 9/11 attacks, Jason spent countless hours at the gates of Camp Pendleton searching cars entering the base for explosives. And when war was declared, Jason was sent to Israel to purchase some Israeli Defense Force Military Working Dogs.
These dogs were trained to have the capability to search for explosives off leash and at a distance to ensure the safety of the handler and military unit. This was going to be Jason’s new job for the rest of his Marine Corps career. After 8 months of training with their new Israeli dogs, Jason and his Marines received orders to Iraq.
The new searching capability Jason’s and his Marines’ new dogs had needed to be sold to unit commanders. Jason toured Fallujah, educating unit commanders about out new IED searching capabilities. Before too long, Jason and his Marines were busy conducting IED search operations all throughout Iraq.
Jason’s tour in Iraq was long but successful. Jason and his Specialized Search Dog Johnny found two large weapon caches and 12 roadside IED’s during their 11 month deployment to Iraq.
Jason was sent back to the United States for six months before receiving orders to Afghanistan. This deployment, Jason was attached to the Army 3rd and 7th Special Forces Group. This tour for Jason and Johnny F728 wasn’t easy and was full of fire fights.
After enduring his last deployment, Jason decided it was time to leave the Marine Corps and follow his endeavors as a civilian. Jason ended up in Washington DC for two years working as a federal government contractor, utilizing an explosive detection dog to protect a federal government top secret facility.
Jason was contacted by Marines at Camp Pendleton that they were hiring civilian dog handlers. Jason jumped on the opportunity and ended back training dogs at Camp Pendleton. Jason spent 4 years working for the Department of Defense and the Marine Corps training dogs and young handlers. Ultimately, Jason has spent 11 years at Camp Pendleton K-9.
In the first months of 2016, Jason moved to Idaho but sadly lost his dog named Penny to cancer. It took Jason years before getting another dog.
In that time Jason started to miss working with dogs. Luckily, Jason found Tom Hansen who started the dog training business called Veteran K-9 Training. Jason met with Tom and was invited by Tom to be business partners. In that time working with Tom, Jason came across a few veterans who were really interested in getting a service dog to help with their disabilities. Jason initially sent his veteran clients to local service dog nonprofits for their service dog needs.The only problem was that these veterans never received calls back from these service dog providers because these providers couldn’t meet the demands of the veterans in the treasure Valley. That is when Jason decided to start Return to Heal Service Dogs.
Tom Hansen, Co-Founder
My career and passion for working with dogs began when I became a Military Working Dog Handler in the Army. I held the role of a Handler, Senior Trainer and Kennel Master throughout my time in.
During my 9 years of active duty service I deployed 3 times overseas to Iraq and Afghanistan working as a Explosive Detection K9 Handler with my Military Working Dog (MWD), TTaylor – a very high drive energetic Yellow Lab.
As a Handler and Trainer I had to conduct training both Obedience and Detection to make sure myself and other K9 teams were proficient at our jobs. This also included correcting training deficiencies both dog and handler. I learned a lot about dog behavior while working with many different breeds and temperament K9’s.
After I left the military I began training dogs on the side but it eventually grew to me opening my business Veteran K-9 Training as the request for services grew.
Training dogs is my passion and therapy to help me cope with my own disabilities that occurred while serving in the Military.
Knowing what dogs can do for others not just physically but mentally motivates me to strive to produce the most obedient and intelligent dogs possible.