A couple from Northern Michigan with 20 years of dog training experience decided to take service dogs to local veterans.
Ron and Diane Monroe started Mission Six Service Dogs for Veterans in 2018.
“We placed a total of six dogs,” said Ron. “We’re looking for dogs that are six to 18 months old, even a two year old dog that needs a home and needs to be accommodated. We bring them to our home, my wife and I make great dogs out of them. “
Ron said it depends on the dog’s personality, but it can take six months to learn skills tailored to a veteran’s disability.
“We are focusing on PTSD and TBI (Traumatic Brain Injury),” said Ron. “Those are some invisible handicaps that come from the desert these days.”
While Ron and Diane train the dogs donated to them from across the state, Ron works with an interested veteran to teach them their rights, roles, rules, and duties for a service dog.
“Under federal and state law, service dogs have a legal right to public areas,” he said. “Anywhere you can travel as a member of the public. The dogs have the right to be there with their veterans, and the veterans have the right to have that dog. “
The veteran also begins working on commands and bonds with his mated dog.
“We bring them together, teach them how to handle a trained dog, and hopefully they grow with the dog in its training.”
Ron and Diane are also helping raise funds for the veterans to support their dog.
“We don’t have corporate sponsorship, maybe someday someone will be brought in to help us that way,” said Ron.
One of the veterans Ron and Diane helped is John Williamson, who spent eight years in the Navy with the Aviation Ordnance and Helicopter Combat Squad.
Williamson said his transition back to civilization was difficult.
“It was such a culture shock,” he said. “In the military, everything is structured that way and everyone knows what to do, and then it’s like a free game here.”
He heard about Mission Six Service Dogs for Veterans from his Veterans Affairs advisor and spoke to Ron and Diane about a service dog.
Williamson met his dog Liberty last summer.
“As soon as the line clicks, we click,” said Williamson. “It was just revealing and I never thought I’d be so much better.”
Williamson said Liberty had become his best friend. He even takes her to work in Boyne Mountain, where he’s a mechanic.
“Everyone loves her,” he said. “She’s more focused on worrying about everyone else and everything around me because I’m worried that she is good.”
The Monroes hope to be able to help more veterans in the years to come.
“Having the opportunity to change someone’s life for the better is a rare opportunity,” said Ron. “We have been blessed to at least try.”
For more information on Mission Six Service Dogs for Veterans, please visit the website and Facebook page.