Two U.S. military veterans and their service dogs are in the middle of a journey across America to help raise awareness and funds for a cause that hits close to home. Dan Spangler, a Marine veteran from North Carolina, and Joe Trainor, an Army Ranger veteran from Chicago, along with their dogs Spanky and C.T. are making the 6,000+ mile journey with the goal of helping military families and veterans keep their pets during times of financial hardship.
Both veterans credit their canine companions for saving their lives. And because they understand first-hand how important a role service dogs play in the lives of military vets, they want to help other veterans who need funds in order to keep their beloved pets when they run into hard financial times.
Marine veteran Dan Spangler was injured in Iraq when he jumped from a truck during gunfire at a checkpoint. When Spangler returned home, he discovered he had been living with a hole in his hip for two months which would require extensive medical treatment. During that same year, the veteran decided to adopt a puppy from a local shelter.
He named him Spanky, and the dog became Dan’s loyal companion through months of medical treatment and years of painful recovery from his injuries. “I look back now and realize that he saved my life just by being there for me,” Dan said. “At the time, I didn’t realize it, but now I do. Spanky and I became best friends and he was there during all the hardships.” Dan is now a dog trainer and he founded the Dreamers Foundation, which benefits local animal rescue organizations.
Army Ranger veteran Joe Trainor, Jr., age 34, sustained traumatic brain injuries while on duty in Afghanistan in 2001, and is now going blind as a result. After returning from a second tour, Joe was suffering from PTSD, and in the midst of trying to transition to civilian life, he fell into a deep depression. At his lowest moment, a friend’s dog jumped into his lap and stopped him from committing suicide—literally saving his life.
“Talk about the power of the dog,” Joe said. “I wanted to end it all, but a pug jumped in my lap. That’s what stopped me.” That’s when Joe knew he wanted to make sure every veteran felt that same feeling at their point of vulnerability. Joe soon adopted his own dog and became the founder of 1Pet1Vet, an organization that pairs military veterans with dogs saved from the brink of euthanasia.
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