Healing heroes: Elkhart matchmaker pairs veterans and rescue dogs
It's a tale as old as time: man, and man's best friend. But for Jeff Spry and his dog Xena, it's so much more.
Spry is a disabled veteran. He has PTSD and knee problems from his ten years in the U.S. Navy.
He rescued Xena from people that he say, "were not nice to her." And now, he joins many other Michiana veterans twice a month at Scrappers in Elkhart for Healing Heroes.
Healing Heroes is an organization that pairs rescue dogs, and matches them with veterans. They offer free training to veterans to help train their dogs be service animals.
Tori Hickey founded Healing Heroes. She's a matchmaker in the community; rescuing dogs, and rescuing veterans.
"You're helping a dog, and you're helping a veteran," Hickey says. "It's a win-win for everybody."
She's not a veteran, but suffers from PTSD as well, knowing just how important having a constant companion can be.
"Even simple thunderstorms are really, really easy for them to overcome together," she says. "When you see that relief in their face, when they have their dog, they have their partner, and they have their own back."
That's why she teaches veterans how to train their own service dogs. Trained service dogs normally cost up to $25,000, and for veterans like Spry, it's just not doable.
"If someone needs a service dog, no one can really afford it anymore," he says.
Hickey hopes that one day, Healing Heroes will heal more of their own.
"What I would like to do is to have the veterans help teach other veterans, because there's like a brotherhood with veterans," she explains. "I'm not a veteran, and it really helps other veterans to just hear some things with other veterans."
She's seen what the bond between man and dog can do.
"There's no words that can describe it," says Spry. "Every day it gets stronger, every day."
And Hickey hopes she can provide more love, to those who need it most.
So far this year, Healing Heroes have placed five service dogs with veterans, and they currently have seven dogs in service training,