2017 Inspiration Award Finalists

Graham Bloem Biography

Founder & Training Director
Shelter to Soldier

Graham Bloem was born in Johannesburg, South Africa and has had an affinity with animals all his life, although his true passion is for dogs. At age five, he immigrated to Toronto, Canada with his family, but enjoyed frequent trips back to South Africa. His experiences in wildlife settings instilled a dream of one day working with animals. From Canada, he immigrated to the United States obtaining US citizenship and he now resides in sunny San Diego, CA with his beautiful family (wife Kyrié, three wonderful children, and dogs Lucy, Toffee, and Juno, a Heinz 57-rescue sweetheart, a playful and loving Golden Retriever and a giant Bernese Mountain Dog).

Graham initially worked as the manager of a local pet nutrition store and used this opportunity to learn about the nutritional needs of cats and dogs. He then attended Animal Behavior College, and in 2002 graduated with honors as an Animal Behavior College Certified Dog Trainer (ABCDT).

After college he joined the Helen Woodward Animal Center’s adoption facility in Rancho Santa Fe, CA. working in several roles ending as senior dog trainer. Over the years, he has worked with thousands of dogs, continuing his studies to further his understanding of dogs’ behavior and needs. Graham specialized in behavior modification and helped to save the lives of thousands of dogs from an uncertain future. After the valuable experience at Helen Woodward, Graham established his own dog-training company, West Coast K9. He also accepted a position of senior mentor trainer for the Animal Behavior College, sharing his dog training knowledge and passion with new trainers and certifying them in California.

Graham has participated in many TV interviews and fundraisers, has been featured in Dog Fancy Magazine, has run seminars on dog care and training, and appeared on several news and radio shows with CBS, NBC, ABC, FOX and CNN. Some of these interviews resulted from his involvement with dogs rescued in the war zone in Iraq. This began with Lava, a puppy rescued during the battle of Fallujah who was brought to the USA by Lt. Col. Jay Kopelman, the New York Times Best Selling Author of “From Bagdad with Love” and “From Bagdad to America,” in which Graham had honorable mentions. Lava is an amazing, loving dog that made an impression on Graham with his outstanding senses and incredible intelligence. Graham helped to socialize and train Lava for his new life in America, teaching him both basic and advanced obedience commands.

In 2006, Graham served the Rancho Coastal Humane Society in Encinitas, CA as their contracting trainer for two years, responsible for behavior assessment, evaluation, treatment plans, staff training, creating and running training programs including volunteer based programs, and other training related tasks. In 2007, Graham was the trainer of another famous dog rescued from the war-zone in Iraq by Lt Col Brian Dennis of the Marine Corps. Lt Col Dennis bonded with a stray mixed-breed dog, Nubs, while serving his country in Iraq. Brian later wrote the NY Times Best Selling Book, “Nubs – The True Story of A Mutt, A Marine and A Miracle,” in which Graham is prominently mentioned. In 2008, Graham joined Snug Pet Resort & Absolute K9 Training team, a pet resort and training facility co-owned by an all-pro NFL star. Snug Pet Resort & Veterinary Hospital is also a boarding facility, grooming salon, and training facility where Graham has had the privilege of working with many dogs, their owners and families.Graham stepped down from his position of General Manager and senior dog trainer at Snug Pet Resort in July 2012 to once again pursue his passion of dog training, particularly behavior cases & service dogs. Graham, his wife Kyrié and friend Krys Holc formed the non-profit “Shelter to Soldier™”, which provides specially trained rescue dogs to post 9/11 combat veterans working through PTS (post traumatic stress) and/or TBI (traumatic brain injury). The couple also runs and owns their for profit dog training company, Specialty Dog Training.


“When you begin to understand the bond and connection your dog has with you and you have with your dog…confusion will diminish and your dog will begin to follow your lead”

Graham Bloem