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Warrior Canine Connection

The Dogist Fund Recipient, November 2021

To Honor our Veterans

In honor of Veterans Day, we’re raising money for Warrior Canine Connection. WCC utilizes a Mission Based Trauma Recovery (MBTR) model to help recovering veterans reconnect with life, their families, their communities, and each other. Their program has veterans training service dogs for other veterans, so more lives are impacted through the training process. We set a fundraising goal of $10,000 for Warrior Canine Connection to help train these future PTSD service dogs.

The Trojan Dog

“The most significant outcome of this program is that every service dog is able to provide service for 60-70 veterans. The PTSD problem is too great to pair one dog with one veteran at a time. Some vets are apprehensive to apply for their own service dogs because they think there’s someone else who needs the dog more, so we start by asking them to help train a dog for another vet, and it’s a ‘no-fail mission’. Through that training, those veterans immediately start getting better because of the dogs – we call this the ‘Trojan Dog’. The military is built on trust, and we’re on the same mission. When a vet receives a dog that was trained by another vet, there’s trust. If you merge the human canine bond with the warrior ethos, which is doing anything you can to help your brothers and sisters in combat, that’s exactly what our mission is."

"These people are trained to be incredible war fighters, but they aren’t trained to reintegrate back into society. They bring the war back home, and it has a profound impact on their families. We teach the dogs that the world is a safe place and not to be scared of loud noises, and that’s exactly what the veterans learn too. They have to battle their intrusive thoughts to teach the dog. There are so many parallels. There are a great number of veterans that isolate themselves, which can be deadly. They hunker down in their house and don't want to go out. When they take the dogs out in public, it’s impossible to stay isolated. Everyone comes up to you when you have a dog.”

The Ability to Process Loss

“I got started in animal assisted therapy in the 90’s – I was a social worker for kids who had been abused in foster care, and around the same time, I had gotten a Golden Retriever puppy named Gabe. After a few months, this dog had mastered the puppy dog eyes look. Like, ‘If you don’t take me to work with you I will die.’ So I arrived at work with a four-month-old puppy. I got a call about a kid in child protective services that needed our help. We showed up as two strangers taking a child away from everything he knows, and he was devastated. When we finally got him in the car, Gabe put his head on his lap and he immediately calmed down. That’s how it all began. After the U.S. wars happened, PTSD began to be talked about more, and in 2006 I had the idea. I thought, I’ve seen how much these dogs can help people, why not have vets train dogs for other vets?"

"The hospital gave me three of the most challenging patients – all Marines. One was a drill instructor with extreme PTSD, one was severely depressed and couldn't get out of bed, and one hadn’t spoken since he arrived at the facility. And there I was, like, ‘here’s your dog!’ About four weeks into it they were questioned about whether or not it was working, and the drill instructor said, ‘before I did this program my wife was about to divorce me because of the way I talked to my three-year-old son. But now I bring home the patience I learned training the dog and use it with my family. I think it's saving my marriage.’ He was able to process his loss through that training – he had lost his battle buddy, his best friend, and he had so much survivor’s guilt. The other guy had the worst sleep of any veteran they’d treated in 40 years. The first night he slept six hours through the night. I’ve had people ask me, how quickly can you see the positive effects of your program? The answer is: immediately.”

The Longing Never Stops

"Our son Christian was a Sergeant Medic in the US army, and he served three tours in the Middle East. He told his superiors that he was suffering from PTSD, and they called him a coward. This is a man who was awarded the Bronze Star Medal with a valor cluster, which is awarded for bravery. The Army was working to move him out of the army, because that’s how they handle PTSD, and they took his weapons away. They ended up giving him his weapons back, and two days later he took his own life. We got connected to WCC through a friend – she knew we were looking to turn this negative into a positive in any way we could. And, no exaggeration, it was life saving. We still had five other kids, but had no purpose within ourselves. When we got our first dog, Jack, everything changed. He did for us what these dogs do for veterans. He tuned into our needs – he knew when we needed him there. We’ve raised 10 dogs for WCC since."

"We don’t want any other parent to go through what we went through. And the problem is getting worse, not better. The idea that everyone is strong and no one is weak is at the core of the military. We need to do a better job as a nation at telling these veterans that it’s not weak to ask for help. That’s something that Chris couldn’t do, and he knew that. WCC has helped us feel so much closer to our son. Every time we give up a dog we’ve raised, we’re able to meet the veteran who is paired with them. We see the difference the dog is making, and it makes us reflect on what this could have done for Chris. Because he was a medic, we’ve had so many people tell us that they wouldn’t be here without Chris. He could help them, but he couldn’t help himself. The longing never stops, but helping others makes the pain a bit easier.”

Some Pain You Can't See

“I was a military police officer in Fort Bragg, NC in the 70’s, and in the first class of women to graduate. They really didn’t want us there. 60 of us started and only 30 of us graduated. It came so naturally to me, but it was so much rougher than I thought it would be. We had to do everything the men would do – hand to hand combat with men, learning how to guard the POWs, urban combat. Training helps, but it doesn't prepare you for the abuse, or getting shot at with real bullets. The first day I got there I got punched in the face. My sergeant woke me up and said, ‘welcome to Fort Bragg.’ We saw sick, traumatizing things. Being a female I also had to also deal with sexual harassment. You’d think the male officers would have your back, but that wasn’t the case. When you have to take your gun out on your partner and say, ‘get off of me’, something is wrong. There’s no one there saying – this person is emotionally depleting and needs help. I would be the only female on patrol for weeks on end – 60 to 70 days straight, no days off. The only way my female partner got off was by shooting her vehicle because she needed a break."

"After you show your grit, you get your respect. It’s taken me years to learn how to emote again. I used to just stare at people – I haven’t been very nice in the past. Since getting Barb I’m open to meeting people. She helps me with every conversation – she opens my world up. It usually starts with a child who wants to pet her, and then I’m talking to their parents, and suddenly I’m out in the world. I feel like I’ve won – every day is a little bit better. There was a time I didn’t leave my house for two and a half years. I truly didn’t believe I deserved a service dog because I don't have a physical injury, it's all mental. I went into the VA thinking I didn’t need any help, but Barb has changed my mind about that. Some pain you can’t see.”

We’re ended up raising $13,000 for Warrior Canine Connection. 100% of donations that were made to The Dogist Fund during the month of November will go to training future PTSD service dogs.

Testimonial from the WCC team

@warriorcanineconnection

“We are FUR-ever grateful to the Dogist team and their generous followers for the awesome support of our work at Warrior Canine Connection! Thank you for helping us bring the healing power of dogs to more of our nation’s wounded Veterans!”

– Your friends at WCC