[On screen text: Taking Care of Our Vets Back Home, A CFC Charity Beneficiary Testimonial]
I'm Kraig Laskowski. I was a marine for 20 years and retired as a First Sergeant.
I had trouble transitioning to civilian life after I went to Iraq.
And when I finally retired and got out of the military,
I had a really hard time trying to find friends and fit back in.
I had a big problem with alcohol at the time.
And because of all my surgeries, they were pushing all kinds of pain killers on me.
So, it shut me down. Made me stay inside the house.
I was having a lot of anxiety and flashbacks.
If I went to the store, I was having problems at the store.
It was kind of chaos for me with people going around.
I knew that I was wanting a service dog.
And what we were looking for is an organization that would actually help us,
not only give you the dog, but do that follow on training.
It's hard to quantify the impact a service dog has on the life of a veteran or first responder.
[On screen text: Nikki Charles has made it her life's work to care for our nation's heroes.]
My name is Nikki Charles. I'm the Executive Director at Hero Dogs.
Our mission is to improve quality of life and restore independence to our nation's heroes
by raising, training, and placing service dogs and other highly skilled canines
free of charge with lifetime support of the partnerships.
I was matched with Hunter in 2019.
We went to the orientation and lo and behold, Hunter was here.
As soon as I walked in, Hunter jumped up and came to the gate.
He came over and he sat by me the whole time during our interview.
So, he kind of found me. I had that instant connection with him
as soon as he came up to that fence. And I wanted him,
you know, as my service dog the whole time.
[On screen text: Kraig and Hunter have both benefitted from the impactful work of Hero Dogs.]
What makes us unique is our intensive training model and our lifetime support of the partnerships.
The dogs can be taught to interrupt traumatic triggers. We have dogs that will wake people from nightmares.
These dogs are actually saving their lives.
When I get anxious and if I tap my foot, he'll come react and cross my arms.
He can tell if I'm nervous. He's with me every second.
He actually allows me to open up my world.
[On screen text: The CFC enables life-changing services.
These services have resulted in an unending bond between Kraig and Hunter,
giving them both back a life they deserve.]
One of the great benefits of participating in CFC is that money comes in unrestricted
and allows us to fill the gaps we would potentially have in our budget every year, if not for those donations.
"Take that. Take. Bring, bring, bring. Give. Yes! Good job."
We also have a huge volunteer population, about 125 to 150
really engaged volunteers working with our dogs daily.
The best thing about my service dog is he allows me to interact with people without the stress and anxiety.
He...He's been phenomenal to me. I just can't think of living without him.
It just, it kind of opened up my world and let me go back out.