Nick is a healer by nature. So it is no surprise that the Army veteran saved a puppy mill survivor and plans to give his new pup a purpose helping others.
Life on target
Life has been busy for Nick over the past few years. He is simultaneously serving in the military while completing an advanced degree in social work.
“I am currently serving in the Wisconsin Army National Guard as a combat medic within the 32nd Infantry Brigade [Combat Team],” he says. “I have been in for just over three years and I wouldn’t trade my experiences for anything.”
This Infantry Brigade Combat Team (IBCT) is descendent of the Red Arrow Division, which has been deactivated and reactivated over the years to best serve the needs of the Army. In its current formation, the 32nd IBCT is the largest unit within the Wisconsin Army National Guard.
As a combat medic Nick is trained to administer critical, lifesaving, and emergency care in combat and humanitarian situations.
In contrast to the the sobering responsibility of his work, one of Nick’s most enduring memories to date has a humorous twist.
The young veteran recalls a 2021 training session in which the Wisconsin Adjutant General visited his battalion and tried his hand at the firing line. Despite believing that he had not hit any of the targets, Nick advised him that his aim was so perfect that the machine did not register the hits.
Healing our heroes
When he is not serving with the National Guard, Nick is hard at work earning his masters degree in social work. His sub-specialty, or focus, is trauma-informed care.
It is a logical extension of Nick’s work as a combat medic.
“I am also completing my clinical internship at the Veterans Affairs Hospital in Tomah, Wisconsin, so I get the pleasure daily of working with some of America’s finest people,” he says.
“I feel honored to walk amongst some of the best.”
Life is plenty busy for Nick. Still, the idea of adopting a companion pet was very much on his mind.
Little did the Army veteran know that a puppy mill survivor would soon accelerate his plans.
Nick had no intention to adopt a pet prior to finishing school. The veteran’s days are busy, hectic, and often stressful. His schedule and workload would be that much lighter after completing his degree.
But sometimes life happens.
“I had been looking to adopt a dog, but was planning on waiting on after graduating,” Nick explains. “However, I saw Lambeau on a pet adoption website and reached out to the shelter.”
It was summer 2022, a little less than a year from Nick’s anticipated graduation.
Lambeau – named Pebbles at the time – was a then three year-old Poodle and a puppy mill survivor. He had been in the care of our partners Shelter From The Storm, which offers veterans in our program a 10 percent adoption fee discount and ‘day one’ essentials.
Puppy mills are disreputable dog breeding factories where little, if any, attention is paid to the physical and emotional well-being of the animals.
A handful of states have banned the sale of pets arising from these facilities in an effort to ultimately shut them down altogether.
Educating the public about the reality of puppy mills and the abuse these animals endure is critical.
It is because of this greed-fueled cruelty that so many animal welfare organizations embrace the slogan, ‘adopt, don’t shop’ to encourage the adoption of animals from shelters instead of buying them from a store.
Lambeau’s impossibly cute looks and honey-colored curls belie the cruelty he endured. Still, he is among the lucky ones because he was rescued and given the opportunity to find a loving home.
So the puppy mill survivor and the combat medic would become our very first adoption through Shelter From The Storm. The organization was approved into our free, nationwide shelter partner program just one day earlier.
Easing the price of having pets
Like many of our adopters, Nick found out about Pets for Patriots and our companion pet adoption program for military veterans online. Our exclusive embrace of United States military veterans resonated with him.
“I found out about the Pets for Patriots program while just surfing the web,” he recalls, “and chose to adopt through the program due to the support that is provided to veterans and current service members.”
The combat medic has already recommended our program to other veterans. He believes our focus on reducing the costs of lifetime pet guardianship is especially important to those who may be reluctant to adopt over concerns of affordability.
Our program cannot make a pet affordable for someone who truly does not have the financial means to support one, but it can reduce some of the costs associated with having a companion dog or cat.
Pup with a purpose
In the meantime, Nick and Lambeau are settling into their new lives together. And the Army veteran is enjoying the four-legged therapy that he aspires to bring to other veterans in need.
“I hope to get him certified as a therapy dog and take him to client meetings with me in the future,” he says.
Therapy animals are distinguished from service animals in that they are for the benefit of people other than the handler. They are not permitted where pets are otherwise prohibited, unless as part of a therapy animal program.
The differences are important and outlined in our article about various types of assistance animals.
Lambeau is already proving his chops. He senses when Nick has had a hard day and helps him destress by demanding belly rubs.
“Lambeau has helped me relax more,” Nick shares. “I have a very hectic schedule and am always on the go. It is nice to come home and have him sit by me on the couch and just relax.”