Brett Simon, a founder of K9s For Warriors, currently serves as the organization’s president. When he’s not working with canines, he might be found on the golf course or out fishing. He caught the love of his life in Ponte Vedra and has called Florida home ever since.
What can you share about your background?
I was born and raised in Cincinnati, Ohio. I am a graduate of Purcell Marian High School where I played on the football team, wrestling team and golf team. Cincinnati will always be home to me, but I hate snow and traded snow for the Florida sun.
Where did you work in law enforcement?
I was a police officer in the City of Milford, Ohio and Miami Township, Ohio for nearly 14 years.
Did you request the K9 unit or were you assigned that duty?
I requested to be on the K9 unit. It took a few years, but I finally made it and worked three different dogs over a 10-year period.
How do you spot a puppy that may be suited for working and then how do you determine the best “job” for the dog?
Finding the right dog for the right job takes a lot of ability to the read the dog’s body language. If you know what cues to look for, dogs show their temperament. When we are out looking for a dog for a veteran at a shelter or rescue, we spend time evaluating each one. I am looking for a dog that wants to engage with a person and shows confident behavior — not being shy or hanging back — one that’s not reluctant to come meet me. I am also looking for a dog that has a medium play drive, wanting to play catch or fetch, but not bouncing off the walls. While playing with toys, I watch for possessive behavior, whether it’s trying to tear up the toy or if the dog is afraid of running on different types of floors or surfaces. You can learn so much just observing a dog and determining what the dog is communicating. It just takes time and experience to know what the dog is trying to tell you.
How does a human learn to be a dog trainer?
There are several national dog training academies in the U.S. to learn how to become a trainer. The training programs vary from just learning to teach obedience all the way to becoming what some call a master trainer — learning to work with service dogs, law enforcement or search and rescue. It is up the individual how far to take the training. There is always on-the-job training, and there are a several great trainers in our area. Some will take on an apprentice and teach individually. There are hundreds of books and videos to learn from as well, but nothing beats getting as much experience as possible. The more dogs you work with, the more knowledge you gain.
Tell us about your time at K9s For Warriors.
Through my career from founding K9s For Warriors to today there have been so many amazing moments. It never gets old watching a veteran getting paired with a dog or seeing a family back together again with the assistance of a service dog that we trained. I wish I could pick just one to share but that would not be fair. The starting of K9s For Warriors, to me, was one of the most poignant and memorable moments in my life. How much better does it get when you are saving two lives, the life of a veteran and the life of a rescue/shelter dog.
What brought you to Florida?
My mom had moved to Ponte Vedra in 1988 from Cincinnati, Ohio. I would visit often and loved the area. When I returned from Iraq at the end of 2005, our travel plans got mixed up and instead of being flown to the D.C. area on our way back, we landed at Hunter Army Airfield in Savannah, Georgia. We were all quite shocked to say the least, and they told us it was going to take a few days for the Army to set up new travel plans.
I called my mom and told her I was going to rent a car and drive down to see her. While I was visiting her, I met my future wife. After meeting her and then getting out-processed, I packed up everything I had in Ohio and moved to Ponte Vedra to be with her.
What is your favorite part of living in Ponte Vedra?
Ponte Vedra is just a beautiful area. There is so much to do from going to our beautiful beaches, golfing, fishing and great variety of dining. There is something for everyone.
What do you like to do in your free time?
I enjoy golf and fishing, bike riding and spending time with my family.
What is your hidden talent?
Grilling. I love to grill everything and create recipes and seasonings.