5th annual paws for a vet

I just want to take a few moments and thank everyone involved in helping plan our big event on April 28th and thank all of our sponsors.  Thank you to Window World of Evansville for being our title sponsor this year. Thank you for all the overwhelming support from our community making it possible to get so many quality items for our Silent/Live Auction. Lastly all of the volunteers behind the scenes making this all be so successful. If it wasn’t for them this wouldn’t be possible. They know who they are and knowing them wouldn’t want me to post their names all over this blog. They do it all out of the kindest of their hearts. Thank you all for everyone you do.


Save the date!! April 28 2018 will be our 5th annual Paws for Vets fundraiser. We only do 1 big fundraiser a year and this helps fund our program for the entire year to allow us to provide our services free of charge to our veteran. We will have bounce houses, baked goods, clown, magician, live music, silent/live auction, paws auction and new this year a Beer Garden sponsored by Miller/ Coors light. As always veterans are free and kids are free anyone else is only $5.  The event will be held from 1-7pm at 4001 Vogel road. for those not familiar it’s at the intersection of Vogel and Congress. We are currently in search for volunteers to work the event, silent auction items, and monetary sponsors. If you would like to help in any way contact us at wehaveyoursix@gmail.com or by phone 812-550-5115. More Info to come soon also come visit our facebook page soldier dogs for independence to see all the awesome auction items we will have

Humans of Evansville

“I’m the president of Soldier Dogs for Independence. This is Linda, our secretary and matchmaker. And this is Porkchop. We match up local, wounded veterans with local shelter dogs. We train them together, as a team, for about six to eight months to become a service dog team. Once trained, the dogs are able to do anything medically that a veteran would need, mentally or physically. We don’t just help combat veterans; our services are for anyone who signed on the dotted line saying that they will defend this country.

We currently have about 25 veterans going through the program. We find the dogs in local animal shelters. If they are fit for the job, then they can be trained to be a service dog. We can use any kind of dog, depending on what the veteran needs. Linda is our matchmaker; she visits animal control when she gets off work at her full-time job. She keeps an eye on the dogs as they come in. She usually has a few veterans who have expressed interest in the program, so she tries to match up the right dog with the right veteran.

We’re a little different because we don’t breed dogs to be service dogs; we adopt them from shelters and teach the veteran how to train his or her own dog. After the initial pairing, the veteran takes that dog home. They assume responsibility for the dog and create that bond. They do everything for that dog from the start; that way, the dog knows who takes care of him, and he’ll take care of the vet.

These dogs can be equipped with special mobility gear so that they can be used as a cane. They can retrieve things such as keys, wallets, and credit cards. The dogs can be used as a brace. If I were to get on the ground, call him over and tell him to brace, then I could use him just like people would use a coffee table, or something like that, to stand up. A lot of guys depend on that because they wear knee braces.

The dogs can also remind you to take your medication. They’ll go and get your bag of medication at the appropriate time. They are trained to get the medicine, jump on you, bark and then run back to where your medicine is. They won’t leave you alone until you actually take it. And there’s no tricking them. There was one time that I got up and took my medicine before Porkchop woke up. When he woke up, he wouldn’t leave me alone. I tried to feed him, but he wouldn’t eat. I actually had to go and grab the pill bottle, shake it, take off the lid, and pretend to take a pill before he would leave me alone. At first I just shook the pill bottle, but that wasn’t enough. He needed to see me take the pill. Porkchop also alerts me when he senses that my blood sugars are too high or too low.

The dogs will wake you up if you’re having a nightmare. They can sense blood pressure changes and can smell the adrenaline pumping through your body. They also observe your body movements while you’re sleeping. The dogs learn what you do when you’re having a nightmare; some of them pick up on it instantly. After one week of training Porkchop, he was waking me up from nightmares. The first time he did it, I was like, ‘Why are you in my face, licking on me?’ Imagine waking up to a 100-pound pit bull barking in your face! My wife told me that it was because I was having a nightmare. He was just trying to get my attention and to make sure that I was okay.

It’s different than having a spouse try to wake you up. Sometimes a spouse will end up getting punched if they try to wake you up from a nightmare. The first instinct is to punch, but if a dog is in your face and you feel fur then it interrupts your normal sleep pattern. Porkchop has gotten to the point where he doesn’t fully wake me up; he just nudges me out of my sleep cycle, which ends the nightmare. He’s an incredible, really special dog.”

“I’ve had Porkchop since April 5, 2013. He helped me to get more rest, which reduced the symptoms of PTSD. He saved my life and my family. My wife and I were on the verge of a divorce due to my anger issues. He brought our whole family back together.

Porkchop is always leaning on me. He’s doing that because he’s monitoring my blood sugar levels. He’s also scanning the area so I don’t have to. As a veteran, I see rooftops as places that snipers could be hiding. I don’t have to worry about that, though, because he’ll jump up if he perceives a threat anywhere. That will alert me to turn and see what’s going on. On the battlefield, I leaned on my M4 for safety. Here, I have Porkchop.

Training service dogs is just a small part of what we do, though. Like my shirt says, 22 vets a day commit suicide. One a day is too many. I’ve had four buddies commit suicide since I’ve been back from Iraq. Vanderburgh County has one of the highest rates of veteran suicide. Our goal is that we get so close to these guys that, if they find themselves in that dark place, they know they can call us. We won’t forward them on to an 800 number; we’ll go to where they’re at. We become a family and take care of these guys. My personal cell phone number is on every piece of material that we hand out; I’m talking to a lot of these guys between midnight and 2 AM. We’ve been successful at talking some of them off the ledge.

Everything we do is completely free to the veteran. Who are we to ask someone to give their life for their country and then tell them that they need to pay for the service that we provide? We pay for the adoption fee, dog food if they need it, and anything else that they might need. One of the service dogs had a medical emergency that required $6,000 in vet bills; we even paid for that. We teach the veteran how to train the dog, so the only thing they have invested is time. We are able to provide this service at no charge by raising money at one event at the end of April. We’ve found that more people will support us if we have one big event instead of a bunch of small fundraisers. Our hope is that we raise enough money to fund our operations for the whole year. Joe Bush opened up his 15,000 square foot Old Jim Customs building for us to use, so we don’t have any operating expenses. None of us take a paycheck; we’re all volunteers. Every dollar that comes to us goes straight back to the veteran.”

“Our vice president’s last day to live was the day that he came to the interview to talk about the program. He had already decided that he would do the interview just to check the box off, so that he could say that he tried everything he could for his wife. He showed up, and I talked to him. I told him that we were in this together and that we’re going to get through it. He had planned to go home from the interview, put his kids to bed, kiss his wife goodnight, then drive off and never come back. Instead, he went home, put his kids to bed, kissed his wife goodnight, then went into the bathroom and cried until he could cry no longer, because he had found hope. And hope can be a very scary thing for veterans. It’s hard to reach out for help. It’s easy to say that you’re okay, and for everyone around you to know that’s not right.

I’m a firm believer that if every veteran picks two people to do a buddy check on, then our suicide rate is going to go down. All four of the veterans I knew who committed suicide were a surprise. No one knew anything was going on. As a matter of fact, I saw one guy at the VA two days prior to his suicide; he was as happy as he could be. Now that I know more about it, I know that he was happy because he had come to peace with where he was going.”

Thank you community

I want to take this time to thank the community. Our 2nd annual paws for vets was a huge success. I am overwhelmed by the businesses and community who came out to support all our veterans. The big question is how many veterans was this event able to help? The final numbers are still being calculated but a rough number is OVER $25,000 raised!!!!!amazing job community. Because of your generosity we will be able to save 56 more veterans. Thats a total of 112 lives saved between veteran and service dogs!!! Many thank yous to all involved. 2nd thing i want to address is 22!!! 22 veterans every day commit suicide but that number will be decreased locally because of the community support again THANK YOU

Michael barrentine

President / Iraq war veteran

Beware What You Wish For

You really wish you could bring your dog with you everywhere?
by Kevin Crum

phoebe“I really wish I could bring my dog everywhere with me.” This statement has been said over and over. Do you really wish that? Beware of what you wish for. I don’t take my dog in public for the fun of it. She is the reason that I can go out everywhere.

Lets back up. PTSD: The big ugly word no one likes to talk about. What is PTSD you ask? The technical version of that is Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Webster’s dictionary defines it as this: a psychological reaction that occurs after experiencing a highly stressing event (such as wartime combat, physical violence, or a natural disaster) outside the range of normal human experience and that is usually characterized by depression, anxiety, flashbacks, recurrent nightmares, and avoidance of reminders of the event. How do I explain it to someone that has never experienced it?  Imagine if you will your worst nightmare. The thing that keeps you up at night. The thing in the closet, under the bed, goes bump in the night. Now take that fear and double it. Now that this fear has doubled I am going to take you away from your family and put you in a room full of these scary things. Every day when you wake up, go to sleep, eat, walk down the street, or even use the bathroom you have to deal with this fear. I will take you out of the area for a month and let you go home. Then right back to the scary area. Over and over day after day never ending struggle dealing with this monster.

Once you are home. You are trying to start a normal life but your brain at random times in the day decides to think about your time over there. You have nightmares about it. It starts to make you have anxiety you get angry and every time someone gets close to you start to think about that fear. You stop going out because you don’t want to remember it. You stop interacting with your family because you don’t want to remember it. Now you start to think that the only way to not think about it is to not think at all.

Then in a last ditch effort you listen to your therapist and go to a program where these dogs get trained. You’re scared. You’re not happy and you just want to go home. Slowly you lean on this dog. Slowly you are smiling. Then one day you’re sitting in class and you realize you are alone. Your wife and friends did not come to this week’s training. You’re free for that moment in time, and you’re not afraid.

The only way that I know how to help you understand is to tell you my story:
I am an Iraq war veteran, I was deployed and I came back home. My wife would tell you that the man she sent to war did not come back. In the beginning I didn’t admit anything was wrong and I used alcohol to medicate the problem. This went on for a while. I started going to the VA hospitals. I was medicated with dozens of meds. I was hospitalized several times on the mental health ward. After ten years of dealing with this problem I was done. I had decided that they only way to feel relief was to take my life. I was tired of fighting. I didn’t have a happy day at all. I was afraid to go to sleep, and anxious about being awake and dealing with the world. I knew my wife and kids were taken care of with my disability and life insurance that I had. I had a very detailed plan on how everything was going to end. My wife asked me to go see a therapist again to try again. I didn’t want to go I had a plan of action and knew the steps I need to take. However I decided that to be fair to her I would go. I got an appointment and waited. I went to the appointment and after I still knew that it didn’t change anything. I went again 2 days later and the therapist mentioned a program that she knew of that help vets out and they used dogs to do that. I didn’t want to go. I didn’t believe that this could help. I had tried so many things fought to long and I was tired. I told my wife about the program and we set up a time to go for an interview. Again I didn’t want to go, but as a way to show I tried I decided to just for her no other reason. The day of the interview I had a plan I knew that I was going to put everyone to bed, go for a drive and never come home. During the interview with Mike he made me look at him in the eye. He stated “We are going to save your life.” I promise it will get better.” I went home that night and I put everyone to bed and instead of driving off I locked myself in the bathroom and I cried. I cried for my sanity. I didn’t want to believe that there was hope. I didn’t want to get my hopes up. I had so many times with no success. I had been knocked down so many times and I was tired of getting up. I cried for wife. I cried for my children, and I cried for giving up. I stayed in there until I could cry no more and I stood in the mirror looked at myself and said one more time. One more time I would try. One more time I would get up dust myself off and try. As days turned into weeks I didn’t think about that night. I didn’t think about that plan and I didn’t think about death. I didn’t realize it but I was changing for the good I was become open, a better husband, and a better father.

With my hero by my side it’s much easier to deal with the crowds. I am concentrating on her and not on most things around me. With my hero beside me I am not watching my back as much because she is doing it for me. SDI has saved my life and everyday continues to save other veterans life as well.