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Dog, veteran saving each other

Photo by Rachelle Klemme Veteran Joe Buzay brought his PTSD service dog to a Pets Abandoned Wanting Support event at the Verndale Lions Community Center, where he was the speaker.1 / 2
Frankie and Buzay share a tender moment.2 / 2

The blue-eyed husky and boxer mix was most likely abandoned, standing on U.S. Highway 71 south of Menahga, before he was rescued.

Once a stray, Frankie - named after Frank "Ol' Blue Eyes" Sinatra - is now serving a man who served his country.

Joe Buzay was in the Army for 11 years until 1994. He got his combat badge in Somalia.

Buzay, who lives in the Frazee area, has Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), depression and anxiety as a result of his military service. This made his everyday life difficult.

Then five months ago, his local Veterans Service Office asked him if he was interested in a dog.

In the fall, Buzay went to Lucky Dog in Detroit Lakes.

Lucky Dog operates Patriot Assistance Dogs. According to its Facebook page, this pilot program trains dogs to be placed with American veterans who have post traumatic stress disorder, traumatic brain injury or other psychiatric related disabilities.

"Me and Frankie just hit it off," he said. "We just clicked right off the bat."

Before training in Detroit Lakes, Frankie was a PAWS (Pets Abandoned Wanting Support) rescue. When the initial rescuers were driving, they stopped, and the dog jumped into the van. They contacted Dr. Bridget King of PAWS.

Julie Hoffman took Frankie in at Four Legged Lodge in Motley. His next foster home was with Dennis Junker,who happened to be a veteran. Junker believed

Frankie would be a good PTSD service dog.

PAWS then donated Frankie to the Patriot Assistance Dogs project, where he was matched with his current owner.

"They saved this dog, and he's basically saving me," Buzay said.

Buzay said that before Frankie was in his life, he would leave the house only once a week to get groceries.

Now they train together three days a week.

Buzay said Frankie helps him in a variety of ways. If he is having nightmares - which happens an average of twice per night - Frankie wakes him up, licking his face.

Frankie is trained to respond to specific commands. If Buzay says, "Watch my back," his canine companion will stay near and keep people from getting too close.

In the event Buzay experiences a panic attack, Frankie is being trained to take Buzay to the closest door.

Man's best friend also keeps him mellow and will get his attention to calm him down.

How Frankie went from standing in the middle of U.S. Highway 71, to what he has become, Buzay said, is amazing. He said he didn't understand how someone could get rid of a dog like him.

King and Buzay met a month ago at a fundraiser for Patriot Assistance Dogs. She later called and asked him if he would speak about his experiences.

The pancake breakfast and third annual Chances for Change fundraiser was held at the Verndale Lions Community Center on Saturday, Dec. 10.

King said the goal of the fundraiser is to use money to neuter animals, so there are fewer strays.

Last year, $17,000 was spent to help people in this way.

Buzay said he thought PAWS is a great program, and it's not the animals' fault they are abandoned.