Story of a man and his bestfriends


Joel Molina

Upcoming UTEP graduate Daniel Shiprak and his service dogs, Buddha and Daisy Mae, come together and pose for a photo.

Itzel Giron, Editor-in-Chief

The saying “a man’s best friend” has been interpreted in many ways but possibly most noted by its meaning of a dog‘s loyalty to their owner. For upcoming UTEP graduate Daniel “Dan” Shiprak, the saying is more than just a loyal dog but rather two dogs who changed his life for the better. 

Buddha and Daisy Mae are Shiprak’s service dogs, which are not only certified for PTSD but also detect seizures and diabetic concerns. Both with their own unique capabilities, Buddha helps keep Schiprak safe from PTSD triggers while Daisy is geared toward his resocialization into society. 

“I was in the Army for 26 and a half years; 11 combat tours and my last tour was from here at Fort Bliss (and) got back in 2014,” Shiprak said. “I was diagnosed with severe PTSD, depression, anxiety, suicidal ideologies (and) I was medically retired. Just before I left, my wife and my sister-in-law got Buddha for me.” 

Buddha was the first to come home at only nine weeks old and as a surprise to Shiprak created an unknown connection and a lifelong bond. Through that unbreakable bond, Buddha has been at Shiprak’s side during every class as he works to receive his Masters in Rehabilitation Counseling this spring. However because of Buddha’s perfect attendance, he will also be walking the stage to receive his honorary degree.  

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  • Buddha, the first of Schiprak’s service dogs and who keeps him safe from PTSD triggers. He will be walking the stage along with Shiprak as an honorary graduate.

  • Daisy Mae, second of Shiprak’s service dogs and is responsible for his resocialization into society.

  • Daniel Shiprak and his service Buddha, have attended UTEP together for the past five years and will be graduating later this month.

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According to the UTEP website, the Master of Rehabilitation Counseling is a program which “prepares students with the specialized knowledge, skills and attitudes needed to collaborate in a professional relationship with people who have chronic illnesses.” To Shiprak receiving this degree is more than just assisting those who need help but rather a way to show others how you can overcome struggles and succeed in life. 

“I have been in their shoes; being discriminated against,” Shiprak said. “It’s a social stereotype, ‘oh you have a disability’ and they don’t want to talk to you. Society in general doesn’t want to talk about disabilities.” 

Although Daisy won’t be graduating with a degree quite yet, she and Buddha have helped not just Dan but many at Schiprak’s internship in the Las Cruces School District, where they help students from the ages of 18-21 who have physical or mental disabilities come into their own personality or other clients from other locations with other disabilities. 

All three of them play a vital role in helping these clients emerge from their shell just like Shiprak needed at one point. 

“(Daisy) works really well with the kids, she has got five or six of the kids out of their shells,” Shiprak said. “She actually helped one of our full-spectrum autism clients and helped calm him down.” 

While Daisy works with the younger clients, Buddha is always ready to put the older ‘kids’ in their place according to Shiprak. 

“We have two young adult clients that we’re working with right now that are in wheelchairs. I see when they’re in public working; how other people perceive them, they ignore them because they’re in a wheelchair,” Shiprak said. “There is one student who loves to work with the dogs, even though he is in a wheelchair and we have to be very careful, the dogs understand. Buddha meets him every morning at the bus, when the bus pulls into the parking lot.” 

Aside from their story alone, it is seen how the trio have helped so many come out of their shell either as a client or as a fellow student on around campus. 

All three have bigger goals than their own, making them so welcoming and easy to talk to. Luckily for everyone on campus, both Buddha and Daisy Mae are only a few service dogs who people are allowed to interact with as they are also certified therapy dogs. 

“Daisy and Buddha are both certified therapy dogs, so when I have my mental health clients with me, they come with me,” Shiprak said. “I tailor sessions to the client. I get to know them and I decide which dog to bring to the next session with me.”  

In all, walking across the stage is something that is no easy feat for anyone, for Shiprak it is something that at times seemed impossible or no longer attainable but thanks to his father and big support system, he now gets to walk the stage later this month. 

“Believe in yourself even when it gets tough,” Shiprak said. “It was scary for me in the beginning, mentally I was burnt out a few times with bad grades and bad days (which) made me want to quit but my professors or advisors would tell me ‘No, it’s just a bad day.’ 

Luckily for Shiprak, while along his journey, he has had either Buddha, Daisy Mae or both to help him overcome the difficulties of being burnt out or having a bad day. 

“(Buddha and Daisy) will let me know I’m having a bad day,” Shiprak said. “I stop, take a breath and look around and I imagine myself tomorrow, a better person.”  

Just like many it is not always about the destination but rather the journey and for Shiprack the journey has had much to offer and much to learn.  

“(This journey) is more for me and my dad but deep down I know it’s not just for me and my dad,” Shiprak said. “If I can help someone every day to be better or be here tomorrow, then I have done my job.” 

Itzel Giron is the editor-in-chief and may be reached at [email protected]; @by.itzel.giron on Instagram; @itzel_anahi_16 on Twitter.