We both have had many family members in the military. John's Dad was in the Army and Laura's dad was in the Navy, plus so many more in between. The most recent family members are our children. We have 6 children all-together. The oldest 2 are veterans of the Army and Marines. The third oldest is currently in the Air Force. This started our passion of military and veterans. As each child went into the military we learned more and more. Many times, we have heard our boys talk about buddies they knew while in the military that took their lives either during active duty or as veterans. We also became aware of the 22 a day that take their lives each day nationwide. However, it wasn't until June of 2019, that brought the reality of PTSD all too close to home for us. One of our good friends' sons, who had PTSD from being in the Army, lost his struggle and took his own life. I (Laura) went to the funeral alone, as John had to work that day. As I was pulling up to the graveside service, I saw a dog jump over the truck seats in one of the first vehicles. Jokingly, I sent off a text message to John that said, "Maybe we should train service dogs LOL 🙂". Jokingly, John sent a text back that said, "Let's do it, LOL". (side Note: I have always loved all animals growing up but a few events had happened that was not happy with large dogs at that time, so this was really just a joke between us, so I thought) Weeks went by and the thought of the service dog text messages kept coming up for us. Separately, we would both take notice of different things happening around us, Then, one day Laura brought it back up, to discuss the idea. We both realized at that moment, that we continually had reminders popping up everywhere from those two text messages. Like seeing service dogs everywhere, and hearing sermons at church that were talking about exactly what we were thinking and feeling, and even bible devotionals that pointed in that direction. But this was too huge to just take those things as a sign from God, we had to be sure. We had been praying about what we were feeling, asking God to give us a very clear sign to know that this was our purpose. As we were scared, questioning if this was for us or not as this was too big for us to do by ourselves. Neither one of us had anything to do with nonprofits or starting one for that matter. A few weeks later our absolute sign came from God and decided to take the leap of Faith. We researched and talked with friends, veteran's with service dogs and even fostered one of Puppy Jake Foundation's service dogs in the beginning to see if this was something we would even like to do. A lady from our church had put us in contact with a gentleman who had a service dog. We set up a meeting with him to discuss PTSD and his story. In our research, we had a meeting with Puppy Jake Foundation and finding out from their staff that they have hundreds of applications on file and not enough dogs to go to each of the applicates. Then finding out that it takes 2 years to train a dog from start to finish. These two meetings fueled our fire and passion and we knew we could make a huge impact. We didn't know how but we knew this was exactly what we needed to do. COVID-19 hit and we decided to put things on hold for a bit. However, not having a dog trainer, I (Laura) took another leap of Faith and made the decision to go back to school to become a certified dog trainer. I have since then learned the service dog work from a service dog trainer in Wisconsin. God has been a huge part of our story and the story of Canine Miracles for Heroes. God has been the one to get us from the beginning to where we are now. Too many God stories to tell on here. Ask us about them!
So why include emergency personnel?
Not many people know that In 2007, Laura worked as a 911 operator for Guthrie County. Being a 911 operator is both challenging and rewarding. As the first point of contact in emergency situations this can and often is very stress-filled. Each day brings a unique set of circumstances from medical emergencies and accidents to life-threatening situations. The role can be emotionally taxing.
"I soon found out just how much it can take a toll. I do not talk about this at all as it brings back too many of the feelings and thoughts of that night. I will not go into the details of the call for privacy reasons. However, I can say the night that I took the phone call, was an ordinary night. After that night I felt sick all the time. My body took over and I started having a debilitating headaches all the time. I had a toddler at home and couldn't take care of him. My stomach was always in shambles. I developed depression and flashbacks of the night taking the phone call. Not knowing what happened after the call, my brain decided to make up the scene of the incident, since I was just on the 911 phone call and not there. I would have flashbacks of those images my brain made up. I hated to go to work now and every phone call made me cringe. I couldn't function anymore. I thought I was just a bad employee, a bad mom, a bad wife. Shortly thereafter, the sheriff called me into his office. Now, if you know me, you know that I am not a person that cries easily. That day, I broke down in his office as soon as I was in there. I knew something was not right with me but just assumed it was normal behavior after a trauma situation. For years, I would have negative thoughts and self-talk. I had negative beliefs about my work and who I am as a person. There was a time that I would go through the entirety of the crisis that night, in my brain, each time I passed the spot the crisis took place. Which then brought back all the emotion and reactivity, the guilt, the shame, and the fear too."
The other reason is that real live Heroes come in many different forms and those in those roles often serve as an inspiration to others. They remind us of the potential for good within humanity and the positive impact that each individual can make on the world around them. So, when or if those Heroes are in need, Canine Miracles for Heroes is here to help them out.