A Missouri dog has won American Humane’s “Service Dog of the Year”. Sobee, from central Missouri’s Holts Summit, is now in the running for the organization’s top title – the “Hero Dog Award”. The boxer mix is competing alongside six other amazing canines for the award.
Sobee was rescued in 2016 by K9s on the Front Line – with only two days left on the euthanasia list in an overcrowded Georgia animal shelter. Through the organization, she began her training as a service dog to help a Missouri combat veteran seeking rescue himself.
Jason Howe, a U.S. Navy veteran and Sobee’s owner, says after he returned from Iraq and Afghanistan, he started doing the life struggles. Integrating back into daily life after serving on the front lines was challenging.
“In the military, it was always talked about moving on, ‘You’re alright. Deal with it. Be tough,’” he says.
Howe went through a divorce. He became addicted to pain medication and then started other drug use.
Howe returned to Maine to find himself again – for himself and for his two kids. That’s where he found out about K9s on the Front Line. The organization found his perfect match.
Sobee helps Howe fight post-traumatic stress disorder, depression and panic attacks.
“I got her knowing that she was two days away from being euthanized and she was kind of on her, I guess, life support you’d call it. So was I at that point in time,” says Howe. “I had purpose again and all my other worries from the past, I was able to stop thinking about because she was by my side and focusing my attention on good instead of bad.”
He says Sobee and his kids are the reason he is still here today.
“In the past year or so, I’ve had a lot less episodes. I would say, I probably could count on my hand that I’ve had in the last couple years with her. So, it’s really helped keep me calm – keep a different mindset. You know, people say, ‘Oh, it’s just a dog.’ Well, to me it’s not. It’s been my life alert,” says Howe.
Sobee inspired Howe to launch a Missouri chapter of an organization called “K9s on the Front Line” – training service dogs to help more than 125 veterans in Missouri so far. They come from all over the state. Some travel several hours to participate.
“It’s been amazing to see,” he says. “It’s almost like a peer support group I guess you could call it. The first couple classes, the veterans are nervous just like I was when I went into the class. Once I spill my guts to them and tell them I went through the program, here’s what my struggles were, you can almost see the stress level go completely down because they are like, ‘He’s been there. He’s done it and now he’s here? We can do this, too.’ So, it’s kind of like that brotherhood and sisterhood again of we’ve got your back and we are going to make sure that you keep moving forward and you change your life.”
America can help choose the winner by voting daily through September 7 at herodogawards.org.
“She’s special to me, but not she’s even more special to the entire nation that voted for her. Now, more people are going to be able to hear that story. There are people out there that might be in the same position I was and maybe that hopefully gives them hope,” he says.
To listen to the interview with Howe, click below.
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