This is Chris, a medically retired Army Infantry Platoon Sergeant. After constantly dealing with hyper vigilance and anxieties in big crowds, Chris’ wife, Beverly, found Healing4Heroes™ on Facebook and knew it would help Chris. She and Chris submitted an application to join the program and not long after that Chris was in his first class. Chris received and trained his first dog, Coco, but then he was diagnosed with autoimmune disease in May 2018.
This took an unexpected toll on his physical health, and created a hole his first service dog couldn’t fill. Because of this unfortunate condition, his muscles began to deteriorate and his first service dog couldn’t help with these new challenges. He decided to call Piper, the Healing4Heroes™ founder, and she suggested he get a bigger dog to help with mobility. Six months after being diagnosed, Chris was assigned a Great Dane, Max.
“I brought over my other dog to make sure they got along, they sniffed each other like dogs do and they were buddies.”
As all the other service dogs at Healing4Heroes™, Max was a rescue dog. He was saved from a breeder that was going to put him down due to an external hernia that would make it harder for him to be sold.
Living with service dogs can often change lifestyles for some, but Chris tries to just live a normal life and likes it that way. Max will only listen to few other people besides Chris. He and his dogs are on the same wavelength and work well together; this allows them to complete tasks almost as if Max isn’t even there.
“I don’t make any adjustments; I just take the dogs and go about my business.”
Max is strictly for mobility. He assists Chris up and down stairs, inclines, escalators, and even normal walking. Chris is even trying to train Max to learn more tasks, other than mobility assistance. He is constantly working with Max so the duo can reach their full potential. They do everything together, and have made it a long way from where they started.
“When I first got him, he was nervous and wouldn’t do much. Now, I don’t go ten feet without him beside me, he will not let me out of his sight.”
Since partnering with Healing4Heroes™, Chris has seen firsthand how much service dogs and the Healing4Heroes™ family can positively impact lives. He is beyond grateful to all the people who have helped him reach the point he is at now. All of the staff and volunteers are what made him keep coming back to continue through the process.
“The more people that know about this program, the better it helps; it’s a great thing to be a part of and see how it’s saving lives.”
Chris and his wife have seen the amazing results of veterans working with service dogs, which is why they come and volunteer at events as often as they can. They had a gut feeling to choose Healing4Heroes™ rather than the other organizations in the beginning, and have stuck to it ever since. Because of people like Chris, all the veterans and staff have an unbreakable connection.
“Before you come into this group, you think you’re all alone, and you’re really not. You come into this family and everybody is the same. We’re all like one big family, you can say what you want, be normal, and not worry about anybody judging you.”
Since receiving his companions, it doesn’t completely take away all the daily battles that Chris faces, but it makes them bearable. He has seen himself transform from what he considered a salty mean guy, to the man he is today, because of the help of his dogs and the support from the community of Healing4Heroes™. He hopes that he can see the same for his fellow brothers and sisters in arms through this organization.
Visit https://Healing4Heroes.org/donations to help give hope to another veteran or volunteer your time if you’re in the Georgia area. Veterans can apply and get on the waiting list by going to https://Healing4Heroes.org/application.