The Veterans; Terran Frye (Marine), Mike “Skully” Hopp (Army), Ben Wickler (Marine) and Dan Chappel (Army).
Ben drove the farthest, Indiana, and since Terran, Mike and Ben already knew each together, the weekend started on Friday, not Saturday, as I had planned. I was excited for all of them to be here and was stressed that I wasn’t properly prepared for their arrival. I was equally not prepared when Mike showed up with (maybe) his new dog, who found him, Bella. It wasn’t about me, this was about them….
Things work out a way for a reason, everyone got to spend an extra day with their dog, which was perfect. Watching each of these guys grow with their dog over the 72 hours….was amazing. I am so glad we have it on video, and it will be great to show them the difference each week, and month, and so on that they are with their dog. But it was more than just the time spent with the dogs. There was some great time where we talked, each shared stories, some funny, some hard to hear. They helped each other with VA Benefits, and they watched and supported each other though training with their dogs. It was great to have Dan here, cause he got to meet these guys, and they had a change to spend time together too. The camaraderie…. It was great watching this aspect of what we are creating, a place where Veterans have for each other. At one point there were two snoring Veterans, passed out on the couch for a few hours, resting for the next training session….
Donna and I learned a lot just observing, this giving us more insight into ‘their world’ and creating the perfect Psychiatric Service Dog for them. The missing piece of this weekend was clear to all of us, and now I am really on my mission!!! Our permanent place: Stiggy’s Sanctuary; land that will house our training facility, but also have cabins or yurts, to house the Veterans. That way they can leave and go home separately, away from us and the other dogs, to spend some quiet time together, Stay overnight together……One day that will be. For now, thank you guys for your patience and working through this with us!