Our Founding Story

Learn more about us and our Story

Let's 'tear down the wall' of limitations.

Making the world more accessible for everyone with the help of psychiatric service dogs.

The story

The founding of PSD-USA is a story of visions and overcoming barriers, symbolized by the encounter of Joschka and Ryder at a historic location – near a remaining piece of the Berlin Wall. Similar to Ronald Reagan’s legendary call to “Tear Down This Wall,” PSD-USA aims to tear down symbolic walls: the barriers that prevent people and their dogs from being together everywhere, especially on flights. It all started with Joschka, a Dalmatian born in November 2020, and his owner Till, a German journalist who struggled greatly with fear of flying. Till and his partner Meike, both experienced journalists, had lived and worked in the USA for many years. In December 2021, they faced the challenge of frequently traveling between Europe and the USA. Till’s fear of flying, triggered by a traumatic plane incident, made these travels particularly daunting.

The turning point came through PSDeurope. After thorough research, Till and Meike discovered that Joschka could be certified as a Psychiatric Service Dog (PSD). Joschka began accompanying Till on his travels, significantly helping him manage his fears. The real pivotal moment in the story of PSD-USA, however, occurred when Joschka met Ryder, a herding dog mix, near a remnant of the Berlin Wall in Berlin’s Westend. As Joschka and Ryder played, their owners struck up a conversation. Ryder’s owner, Natallia, an influencer marketing specialist from Belarus, shared her challenges with traveling for work and her reluctance to transport Ryder in a plane’s cargo hold, despite needing him for emotional support. Till shared his experience with PSDeurope, and soon after, Ryder also became a trained and certified PSD.

 

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This encounter sparked a professional vision: to offer PSDeurope’s training and certification methods in the USA. Numerous discussions and negotiations with the founders of PSDeurope followed. Convinced by the meeting between Joschka and Ryder, and recognizing the potential of Till and Meike as German-American journalists, along with Natallia and her friend and Social Media specialist Leon, they decided to establish PSD-USA, a Nonprofit Corporation in Utah.

The team was completed by Jan, an IT specialist and AI expert. Jan, a long-time family friend, brought additional technical know-how, which led, among other things, to the development of Joschka as an intelligent “ChatDog”, but also to new online tools for training and travel preparations. Also on the team is Sophie, who, as a full-time traveler with mental impairments, relies on her Labrador dog Melon. On the one hand, she needs her dog for support, and on the other hand, she is precisely able to assess what training and certification psychiatric service dogs must have in order to be a constant companion and partner in all travel and life situations. This story of PSD-USA is a testament to how personal experiences, dedication, and innovative ideas can come together to create something meaningful and helpful. It’s a tale of humanity, collaboration, and the pursuit of improving the lives of people and their loyal companions.