Meet ITI Instructor Kyle McDermott, a military veteran who navigates life and work with his service dog Eros by his side.
Prior to joining ITI in December of 2022, Instructor Kyle McDermott served in the United States Marine Corps. He completed three tours to Afghanistan, all of which took place in active combat zones. Like many veterans who transition to a civilian existence after experiencing the rigors of military service, Kyle found he could use some help navigating life. For Kyle, that help came in the form of a Belgian Malinois pup dubbed Eros for the heart-shaped mark on his tail.
Kyle, who has had dogs all his life, previously worked with a service dog and knew what he was getting into in terms of the time commitment associated with ensuring his new companion would not be a hinderance to his work. While we all like to think our dog has what it takes to be a service animal, the truth is that there is a great deal of training that must take place. When scouting for a new pup, Kyle explained that Eros had a bit of a leg up on the competition seeing as he came from Chien Policier Belgian Malinois an award winning breeder with over 30 years experience and a commitment to excellence.
As Kyle and Eros started their journey together in the professional arena, they encountered a workplace at ITI that was not only supportive but also open-minded about the benefits of having a service dog both on and offsite. Clients are of course informed of the service canine prior to his arrival on customer worksites, to ensure full buyoff and approval. Thus far, we've yet to encounter a single person who has taken issue with his presence. Kyle's students and colleagues report that having a furry friend around has provided a unique form of stress relief, fostering a more relaxed and inclusive environment. In fact, Kyle often finds students sneaking in treats, toys, and one of Eros' all time favorites - peanut butter, toward the end of week long courses.
Beyond the initial novelty, Eros seamlessly integrates into the classroom and training culture, often times gaining honorable mention in Kyle's instructor evaluations. He notes Eros is himself a bit of a stickler for safety, having a certain affinity for gloves. If the students don't have their gloves on during a yard exercise, chances are Eros knows where the gloves are located. Kyle even jokes that his companion knows the ITI crane and rigging training programs forwards and back at this point, earning him the title of Classroom Auditor.
Another thing he's well versed in these days is airline travel. He first boarded a plane at just four months, an experience that Kyle shared was "initially about as stressful as taking a young kid on the road with you." Kyle and his canine average two flights per week, and as of November 2023, Eros was coming up on his 50th flight!
Students quickly realize that Eros is not just any dog but a dedicated and highly trained service animal. In fact, Kyle shares that Eros serves as a great icebreaker among new groups of people both in and outside of the classroom. "It's not at all uncommon for someone to stop us in a hotel or while we're out running an errand and before I know it, I'll end up in 20 minute conversation where they're telling me their life story, all because they felt more comfortable coming up to a guy with a dog."
The presence of a service dog in the workplace has prompted conversations about inclusivity, mental health awareness, and the diverse ways in which individuals cope with life's challenges. It has opened the eyes of Kyle's colleagues to the realities faced by many veterans and has sparked a new level of empathy within the workplace.
In a world where stress and challenges are inevitable, the bond between a veteran and his service dog serves as an inspiring example of resilience, companionship, and the transformative power of acceptance in the workplace. As Kyle and Eros continue to navigate the daily grind together, they are not just coworkers but also a living testament to the positive impact that a furry friend can have on the human spirit.
True to form, Kyle asked that we ensure readers know he's open to answering any questions that anyone may have regarding getting started with a service dog in our industry.
You may reach out to Kyle directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Industrial Training International (ITI) is a global leader in the design and delivery of learning solutions for organizations conducting crane, rigging, and load handling activities. Founded in 1986, the company originally specialized in instructor-led training, field services, and consulting. ITI has since grown to also produce live online, and on-demand courses delivered via the ITI Learning Hub and has been recognized with numerous industry association awards for its groundbreaking virtual reality crane and equipment simulations solution. For more information, visit: iti.com.