Fridays with FAITH: Keith’s Journey to SOOKIE
Hello my FAITH-ful readers! I hope you’ve been enjoying the warmer weather! We have some ‘paw-some’ news for you! Keith Harrison has been matched and is working with his next service dog, SOOKIE! Please help our family welcome SOOKIE into the maCares & faith Cares Service Dog Support Program!
SGT Keith Harrison, U.S. Army (Retired) served as a Combat Medic in the U.S. Army & U.S. Army National Guard for 24 years. Keith served as a Frontline Combat Medic during his first combat tour in Iraq. He was responsible for the health of about 45 men to do whatever was needed for them. He provided medical attention from minor health ailments to major accidents occurring while on mission, including keeping the men stabilized to be sent to the large hospital to continue receiving medical attention so they could make it home to their families. He also would help the Iraqi children and civilians. On the second tour, Keith served as Rear Detachment by taking care of soldiers’ families.
An explosion from an IED gave Keith a concussion that caused routine excruciating headaches. Later, damage to his brain was found and he was diagnosed with Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI). The worsening migraines kept Keith secluded, where he gave up on life (afraid to do anything due to effects). PTSD and TBI affected his entire life and relationships.
In 2011, Keith was matched with his first service dog, ELLIOTT. Sadly, ELLIOTT died of cancer in August 2018. After taking some time to grieve, Keith began researching training facilities that could provide him with a service dog. The major factor was how long the process would take. Keith knew the longer he waited, the more he would lose his way as he was already going back into seclusion, staying away from crowds, including withdrawing from fun hobbies because of the overwhelming feelings.
Fortunately, he found Southeastern Guide Dogs could meet all his needs. Southeastern Guide Dogs transforms lives by creating and nurturing extraordinary partnerships between people and dogs of the highest pedigree for people who are blind and for veterans, providing their premier dogs and lifetime services at no cost, without government funds. Keith was informed his entire application, interview, and training process could take at least 6 months. After his application was approved, Keith was able to get into an upcoming training class to get matched with his service dog. But first, he had to find the means to get to Florida, where the closest training facility was located.
A fellow faith Cares sponsored team, Brock Strickland & TANNEN, was able to help Keith get the needed air transportation at a discount through the help of Mercy Medical Angels. Mercy Medical Angels arranged the round-trip flight for Keith to travel to Florida with the help of Angel Wings for Veterans and the Hogan Foundation. maCares sponsored the flight processing fee and baggage fees. It was happening! Keith was on his way to being matched and begin training with his next service dog!
Southeastern Guide Dogs met Keith at the airport and provided ground transportation and onsite lodging during the training seminar. After being assessed by the trainer, Keith was matched with his next service dog, and he was finally able to meet SOOKIE! Meeting SOOKIE was like Christmas for Keith. He knew ELLIOTT’s personality couldn’t be replaced, but he knew his job would be. Together they went through about 2 weeks of on-site training. Additional training would continue back home in North Carolina.
SOOKIE improves Keith’s quality of life by helping him to go places he normally wouldn’t, especially indoor crowds. Unknown to either of them, one of her first true tests was helping Keith visit a service dog Rainbow Bridge memorial area. When Keith started having a break down, SOOKIE was attentive and responded as she was trained. From that moment, he knew they would definitely be a great team. One of her next big tests was navigating the airport. After getting settled at home, they have continued working together and bonding. SOOKIE deescalates Keith’s migraines and PTSD symptoms.
The pack and our 2-legged friends are so excited that Keith & SOOKIE have found each other! Please help us celebrate and support them! To learn more about the service dog teams you are helping when you support maCares, check out all the maCares & faith Cares sponsored service dog teams by clicking here.
The sponsored service dog teams are relieved of the daily care costs of their service dogs, allowing them to focus on living life together!
Check back soon for updates from yours truly!
Wags and licks,