On June 14th at ICAN's Graduation Ceremony, *Bennie will be placed with John, a veteran, as a PTSD/Mobility Assistance dog. Here is John's story and how Bennie will make a huge impact in his life.
(*Ben was named by his sponsor after the Chicago Cubs baseball player Ben Zobrist ''aka'' Bennie.)
John spent six years in the Marine Corps as a combat engineer and a martial arts instructor. He did two tours to Iraq, once in 2003 then again in 2006 and was responsible for conducting route clearance patrols driving around the worst parts of Iraq looking for road side bombs. Once found, he would disarm them and then dispose of the bomb.
John has been blown up 12 times, disarmed 15 bombs and assisted in disarming another 14 bombs and from one of those explosions, he was wounded from the blast wave and shrapnel. The shrapnel hit his shin and broke a piece of the bone, which is no longer intact. He also sustained blown ear drums, traumatic brain injury, spinal cord injury, and nerve and soft tissue damage to his left thigh. His hips were also tweaked so they are not in the correct alignment anymore.
We asked John to share with us his feelings when he first met Bennie. ''When I first met Ben, I instantly felt a feeling of happiness come over me. I had just been discharged from the hospital the day before. I self-admitted myself into the mental health department of the VA for increased PTSD symptoms. I was having suicidal thoughts due to my depression and anxiety being out of control after a medication mistake. I was still feeling pretty down and anxious until I walked into the room and met Ben. He came right up to me and I instantly felt at ease and all of the negative emotions were filled with positive emotions as Ben and I started to get to know each other.''
''Ben is going to be a positive impact on my life, John said. I feel that he is going to allow me to be able to return to a much more normal lifestyle, with less pain from not having to do things on my own. I will now have someone looking out for me, 24/7, and he will help me cope with my emotional issues.''
''I would like to thank Get-Wet-For-A-Vet and ICAN for making this opportunity possible. Words cannot describe how thankful and appreciative I am for these two organizations and their team members, John said. I feel that I have hit rock bottom in life and have been drug through the rough terrain of life. I honestly feel that this opportunity is a blessing from God and that I am going to finally start climbing out of the hole I have been in for so many years.''
For ICAN Handler Frank, training Bennie for his Level 1 & II made a huge impact in his life. He shared with us that ICAN and Hope will always go hand in hand. He defined Hope as ''helping others prosper equally''. Frank shared with us, ''I know I needed a change and I wanted something different yet challenging and I found all of that with this program. ICAN gave me a positive attitude which gave me a better outlook on my surroundings and pointed me in the direction I wanted to take my life. The sense of pride and accomplishment gave me purpose again.''
Photos by Liz Kaye Photography
For ICAN Handler, Nan, training Bennie has given her compassion, confidence, trust and responsibility. We asked her to share what it was like to train Bennie.
''Bennie is one special dog and he has been such a pleasure to train. He's smart and a hard worker. When I was asked what it's like to graduate a dog…well, there are no words that can relate to it. It's a blessing to be a part of something that is way bigger than words. But I think Bennie's previous handler, Frank, who trained him for Level 1 & II says it best, ''he's an angel on four legs.'' I have had several dogs through my years with ICAN, about 12 years actually, and all of them take a piece of my heart with them. Thank you ICAN for allowing me to be a part of something so special.''
Photos (above and below) by Liz Kaye Photography
Nan continued, ''Bennie will be such an inspiration to John by helping him feel safe in crowds doing his ''wingman'' to provide a safe space between and behind him from others; he will provide him balance with a special vest due to John's injury on his left side and assist him in getting up from his bed, the floor or a chair position by providing a ''brace''. He will retrieve drinks from the refrigerator and bring items to him; and Bennie will recognize when John is having an anxiety attack and help diffuse his symptoms by gently nudging him or go get help for him."
On June 14th, eight dogs will be bringing hope to someone living with a disability. If you have never been to an ICAN graduation, we promise you an evening filled with inspiration as you witness the power of our handlers and clients coming full circle through the spirit of a dog. Please join us in celebrating!
The graduation takes place on Thursday, June 14th at the Indiana Women's Prison. It begins at 7pm and arrival time must be done between 6:15 and 6:45pm to allow time for security clearance. You must be 18 years or older to attend and pre-registered.
There is still time to register at ICAN JUNE GRADUATION as long as you do so by June 6th.
To learn more and see photos from other ICAN Graduations, please visit ICAN Graduation.