Second-Annual Service Dog Event at Purina Farms

Submitted photo.

The following event has been canceled.

Steven Bender

The term “service dog” is new to some and part of the daily vocabulary for others, and getting the word out about how service dogs can help humans is the goal of an upcoming event.

Service dogs can help so many people in a number of ways: the veteran with PTSD, the 20-year-old girl with diabetes, the 70-year-old grandmother with mobility issues. Many people in the United States who are disabled have acquired a service dog to help mitigate the effects of their disability, and the trend is growing.

On Sept. 26, 2020, we’re expecting to have the second-annual event called “Task Dogs: A Service Dog Expo” at the Purina Event Center in Gray Summit, Missouri. The event initially was conceived to help veterans learn how they can get a service dog to help with PTSD, but since the first event last year, a number of others with disabilities have taken interest.

As of June, we plan to have service dog organizations for veterans and non-veterans, and we have vendors interested in selling items like dog harnesses and other related equipment.

We also have several guest speakers lined up, but a complete list may not be available until just before Task Dogs 2020. The virus going around has a lot of events in flux.

One returning guest speaker is Army veteran Justin Tucker of Waynesville, North Carolina, owner of Roxy the PTSD Service Dog who won the service dog category of the American Humane Hero Dog Awards in 2018.

Because my late yellow lab duck dog, Belle, was the inspiration for this one-day event, I began to wonder if anyone had a service dog with which they also hunted, and after a few inquiries, Alyssa Curtis of Retrieving Freedom in Sedalia, Missouri, said their other location in Waverly, Iowa, was responsible for helping Army veteran Trent Dirks and his PTSD service dog, Tracer, learn how to duck hunt, also. Basically, Tracer helps mitigate Trent’s PTSD, but he also gives Trent the freedom to go ducking and retrieve the ducks for Trent.

Please go to and read the pinned post about Trent and Tracer. It’s Trent’s personal account of his struggles with suicidal thoughts and alcoholism, showing how ultimately, Tracer saved his life. It’s a wonderful story.

For this year’s event, we hope to have nearly 40 vendors and organizations available to help educate the public, and we also have a number of guest speakers, including 22-year-old Ashton Gurnari who has 160K followers on Tiktok. She and her service dog, Moose, plan to discuss mental health issues. Did I mention they’re coming all the way from Connecticut?

We also expect speakers and vendors from California, Colorado, Kansas, Iowa, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Illinois, Michigan, possibly Texas and more.

Donations are down because of the virus disruption, but if you want to donate and help make this event a success, please visit the Task Dogs GoFundMe page at: Any contribution will be helpful, and we need all we can get, especially to help pay for a videographer.

If you have any questions, send me an email at And thanks for following along!