Dogs help fight invisible wounds of war

If you are a lover of dogs and want to help a military veteran with posttraumatic stress disorder, you should consider buying a special 2013 calendar donated by Lynn and Paul Sansale of South St. Paul.

You can buy this special “Rescued Heroes” calendar this month and thereby help a Minnesota veteran, suffering from the after shocks of combat, get a trained service dog.

If 285 of these donated 1,000 “Rescued Heroes” calendars can be sold by mid-January, all the $15,000 in proceeds will go to train a dog for a Minnesota war veteran who requests that dog.

The $15,000 is the cost of training the service dog in Florida, including three weeks of training with the soldier suffering from PTSD.

This story starts with, Lynn and Paul Sansale, who wanted to do something special after he retired and she lost her job at Children’s Hospital.

When they saw a friend’s trained service dog, named Lucy, snuggle with kids at a Reading Education Assistance Day (READ) session, they fell in love with Lucy and decided to publish a calendar of rescued trained Minnesota service dogs.

Paul took photographs of 12 of these dogs and spent hundreds of hours painting them, while Lynn wrote the story of each – one a pit bull named Cedric, that was about to be euthanized, and another of Dobie, a black lab, who was dropped four stories from a parking ramp.

The Sansales were partial to the dogs because they once had one, “Molly,” who helped their daughter cope with cerebral palsy.

They published the 2012 calendar featuring Paul’s paintings and Lynn’s stories, which drew national attention.

So how did the Sansales get involved with providing service dogs to help veterans with PTSD?

While they were marketing their service dog calendar, Grace Morris, owner of a dog-sitting business in Brooklyn Center, told them about the nonprofit “Paws and Stripes,” located in Albuquerque, N.M., that provides service dogs to veterans free. Jim Stanek, an Iraq war veteran, whose service dog Sarge helped him deal with PTSD, began the service.

Last fall, working with Stanek and K9s for Warriors in Florida, Lynn and Paul drove 6,000 miles and visited 12 veterans around the country with PTSD, who told them how the service dogs aided them and in some cases saved their lives. Paul intends to paint these 12 dogs from photos he took on their two-and-a-half-week trip, and Lynn will write the inspirational stores for their 2014 calendar. Through these calendars, they hope to inspire others to provide service dogs for veterans.

She’s also helped organize Minnesota Service Dogs for Veterans with the tag line: “Fighting the invisible wounds of war.”

Your buying a calendar is part of the solution.

Don Heinzman is the former editor of the Elk River Star News. He is a columnist for ECM Publishers, Inc.