In an effort to honor veterans who have gone above and beyond the call of duty, Newschannel 5 and Operation Finally Home and joined forces to salute Ken Knabenshue - an Army veteran, who has turned his backyard in Lawrenceburg into a healing ground.
Ken is the founder of Working Dogs for Vets. It’s an organization that pairs veterans in need of some help, with dogs in need of a rescue.
“I look at the veteran and if they were a dog what kind of dog would they be? If it clicks you got a relationship right off the bat. If you have to force the relationship on them, it's kind of like an arranged marriage,” said Ken.
His methods may be unorthodox, but they’ve worked.
Justin Shepherd said his dog, Abbie, saved his life. Fifteen months in Iraq left him depressed, anxious and isolated.
“If she wasn't here with me, I wouldn't be here today. She keeps me from going over the edge,” said Justin.
“When I go to a doctor's appointment or out in crowds or even to the grocery store, it makes it easier to concentrate on her rather than everything around.”
Kenny Yates knows the feeling. He too battles PTSD something Marcie helps him with. She's also in training to help with Kenny's mobility issues.
“I'll be able use her like a cane when I'm going up and down a grade or up and down stairs -- she'll be there to help keep me stable,” explained Kenny.
Susan Curt and Jethro have been joined at the hip for a few years.
“If I fall and go down he's attached. If I'm down, he'll start barking. He'll lay down by my head to protect my head.”
Susan suffered a traumatic brain injury in Afghanistan. Jethro is at the ready to protect her in case she falls. He will also bark to alert her when it’s time to take her medication.
Training like this takes anywhere from 1400 to 2000 hours and a highly trained service dog can cost upwards of $40,000. Ken does it for free. His 'why' is more of 'why not'?!
“When did people stop doing the right thing -- that's what I would like to know?” said Ken.
His may be simply filling a need, but he knows his choice to use is talent is having a profound effect on others.
“When someone's wife calls to tell you their husband is back to work after not leaving the house for 6 months. Or when you find out one of your guys who couldn't go out nowhere is now running for public office,” said Ken as he choked up.
At every turn, Ken’s backyard is filled with stories of survival -- from the four legged to our proud warriors, all thanks to the man who brings them together.
“When God blesses you, you just look up and say thank you.”
Working Dogs with Vets is growing big time. Last year, they rescued 365 dogs. All but two are paired with veterans.
In 2016, they hope to rescue 1000 dogs.
Ken makes it all happen with a nationwide network of trainer volunteers. He does all this on about a $20,000 yearly budget. To help, click here.