Canines help heal, make connections
Milaca – Reuben Elijah Penske visited two places in Princeton last week to inform people about the nonprofit Rover Service Dogs project that would make the animals available on a temporary basis to select clientele who could benefit from the comfort of a service dog. So far, he’s visited and talked to people in Princeton, Milaca, Forest Lake, Cambridge, Eagan, Apple Valley, Woodbury and Zimmerman.
Penske aims to serve military veterans, fellow Christians in ministry and children, including those on the autism spectrum and recovering from severe trauma or injury. He said the dogs act as healing guides. He directs the nonprofit organization Creative Life Resources, which is the parent organization of Rover Service Dogs.
He has three female British Labrador retrievers: “Rocket Blondie” Shelly, which is his service dog, and young dogs Niko and Tasha that are in training. He brought the three canines to a Princeton American Legion meeting Feb. 9 where he told the members his goal was to make Rover Service Dogs available to veterans through Legion posts. Penske also set up an exhibit booth at the Wal-Mart in Princeton and in Forest Lake last week, connecting with people to explain his mission and accept donations.
Penske said the reasons a person may need a certified service or therapy dog are many: trauma, autism, anxiety, depression, readjustment and others. He said the dog is often the link a person needs to guide them and open them up to healing, as well as to help initiate relationships with other people.
“It’s speaking words of healing,” he said.
Penske has a master’s in human development from St. Mary’s University and has been a counselor most of his career studying methods of conductive healing and working in groups. He has trained hunting dogs regularly for about 40 years and has known since then he has a “keen, intuitive ability” with animals.
Penske said he’s been negatively affected by exposure to toxic chemicals, especially in the brain and larynx. He calls certain air fresheners, weed killers and other chemicals like “kryptonite” for him. It was through firsthand experience that he came to appreciate the dogs’ heightened senses and ability to provide communication, comfort and understanding.
He first took his dogs out in public about three years ago and said the things he shares with people resonate and prompt them to tell their own stories. People also talk to him about what it might take to train their own dog as a service animal. Penske came to know there are years-long waiting lists for the dogs, which gradually led to the idea of Rover Service Dogs.
He said, “My … dogs are actively talking and validating the person who is seeking an encouraging resource.”
He envisions the concept working through connections in the community such as an American Legion, VFW and other organizations. For example, a veteran might request to have a dog because they want to see if they can make a healing connection and if perhaps they should apply to have a dog of their own.
He said unlike humans, who validate or discount each other within seconds of meeting, dogs represent acceptance and help humans translate the world in a caring way. The canines teach people to reconnect with the world and speak the language of healing, which he says is the language of the heart. Penske said his role in the Rover Service Dog process is to coach, encourage and provide creative oversight.
“It’s helping people discover and activate their own unique talent,” he said about what the dogs do. “The dog is a catalyst for people learning to be human.”
He also calls them talking dogs, healing circle dogs and superheroes for the jobs they do. They know how to reach out to someone in a healing and affirming way, he said.
Penske said while a lot of groundwork is laid for the healing dogs to do their work, he anticipates major steps forward within the next few months with the development of an educational video, a crowd-sourced funding site and additional marketing materials.
He also hopes for growth and expansion of the concept into the future. The nonprofit’s wish list right now includes a grant writer, office space, volunteer guides for encouragement and puppy mentors who could help develop young dogs at home.
People can learn more about Penske and his Rover Service Dogs venture at his website www.creativeliferesources.org and contact him by email at [email protected]