Liberty Hall’s Newest Duo
Posted on: March 31, 2016
During Bob’s first four months as a Liberty Hall resident, he has had the opportunity to begin pursuing a long-desired career path – one he is not traveling alone.
His companion is Zoey Marie, a three-month-old purebred German Shepard, being trained by Bob as a service dog.
Zoey Marie is quite popular at Liberty Hall, Cazenovia Recovery’s community residence for male military Veterans on the grounds of the Batavia, NY Veterans Administration Medical Center. The program serves homeless Veterans in recovery while supporting their mental health and physical well-being.
Bob, who worked in a canine security unit while serving in the Air Force, wanted to start a not-for-profit to match service dogs with Veterans who have PTSD and other health issues. A big step toward making his dream come true was the generous donation of Zoey Marie (valued at $1500) by Cripple Creek German Shepherds’ owners Fred and Barbara Echtner. They said Bob’s intentions “touched our hearts.” Bob refers to the Echtners as “my heaven-sent angels.”
“I’ve always been calmer and happier with a dog,” Bob said, noting that Zoey Marie gives him “help and hope” in his own recovery. “And, I want to give back to Veterans.”
He will soon begin a 24-week course from the Animal Behavior College to become a nationally-certified PTSD therapy service dog trainer. Bob’s tuition is covered by an educational program for Veterans. He is already training Zoey Marie, who will stay with him permanently. He intends to have her puppies become service dogs.
Liberty Hall staff members support Bob’s efforts and are delighted by Zoey Marie, for whom they bring in stuffed animals and treats. “She’s the queen here at the VA,“ he said. “Everybody loves her. It’s a blessing to see her make people smile.”
Bob enjoys this puppy’s attention and affection each day and wants fellow Veterans to benefit from similar match-ups. He is strongly motivated to do so. “It makes my heart whole,” he said. Bob’s long-range plan is to have a farm that welcomes abandoned animals. “I would like to help them find their forever homes,” he said.
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