AMARILLO, TX (KFDA) –
Many describe our veterans. For some veterans, service dogs — companions who help them readjust to everyday life — fit that same description
A service dog can cost as much as $100,000, making it hard for many to get the help they need in day to day life.
This is where Hope Lives Here comes in. The local non-profit, run by Brooke Schneider, provides those much-needed service dogs to local veterans â free of charge.
“It takes courage to come to someone and ask them for help, especially someone you don’t even know,â said Schneider.
Taking it one step farther, the organization not only saves the veterans but the animals, as well. When a veteran does not have a dog to train as a service animal, Hope Lives Here works with shelters to provide a rescue dog to those in need.
The two then train together as a pair in a rare opportunity to learn and respond to each other’s needs as they become a team.
“We say that the veteran chooses the dog but most of the time it’s the dog choosing the veteran,â said Schneider.
One of those servicemen is U.S. Army veteran Ricardo Hidalgo. He and his dog Misty have been training together since early 2018. Serving in Desert Storm, Hidalgo says the training through Hope Lives Here helps Misty to quickly recognize when he’s in need.
“She alerts to me whenever I have anxiety, I’m depressed, or she knows I’m not feeling well. I’ll call her and say, ‘Misty, daddy needs help,ââ said Hidalgo. “She’s very, very alert as to when my issues are happening.”
Schneider says her labor of love was inspired by the hope and encouragement she received with her own rescue animal
“I know firsthand the impact an animal can have on a human life. After years of domestic violence, I was diagnosed with PTSD,â said Schneider. âI rescued a dog named Harley, but really in the end, it was Harley who rescued me.”
When Harley suddenly passed away, Schneider took that pain and turned it into an opportunity to help others.
“I made a promise that I would use our stories to help others,â said Schneider.
Keeping that promise, Schneider helped seven veterans like Hidalgo within the first year and more are on the way.
“Next week, we could have more than 60 people on the waiting list,â said Schneider. âIt’s really grown, it’s been an amazing thing and really shocking for the need of service dogs in the area.â
Since the program is quickly growing, the non-profit does need community donations and grants to continue providing the service dogs to veterans. A direct link to donate is available on their website.
As they train, Misty stays by Hidalgo’s side, a loyal and protective companion.
“She knows that she’s there for me and will be by my side,â said Hidalgo. âShe’s got my six. If I’m facing that way, she’ll check my back.”
Across town at Northwest Texas Hospital, Chuck Clark, a U.S. Army veteran who served in Korea, is in the recovery process.
“She recognized when my carotid artery was totally blocked and doctors said if she had not woken me up, I would not be here,â said Clark. âI just had major surgery where she told me I had to have some help.”
Clark and his dog Shadow first began their journey two years ago. Shadow is a medical alert dog, attentive to any change in Clark that he may not have recognized, himself.
“Intelligence you won’t believe,â said Clark. “I’ve had her two years now and I’ve spent over a full year of that two in the hospital for things she’s told me.”
With his many stays, the hospital has allowed Clark and Shadow to stay together as he heals.
“It’s been great having her here with me while I could,â said Clark.
From the hospital to home and everywhere in-between, this veteran remains thankful for the woman and her mission that brought a life-saving, four-legged friend into his life.
“It means a heck of a lot,â said Clark. âAs a veteran, all I can say is, Hope Lives Here, I love ya!”
An organization living by its motto, healing heroes two at a time.
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