September 26, 2023
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Russel Palecek instructed his story to producer Sarah Fuss Kessler for an episode of The Each day Rally podcast. It has been edited for size and readability.

A few officers that labored for me have been within the Reserves and bought deployed and got here again, and you could possibly see a change in them and you could possibly see the struggling a few of them went via.

When you meet a veteran that went via what these guys undergo now with the conflicts they’ve been in, you understand how fortunate you have been. I volunteered in 1975, and was planning on graduating and becoming a member of the service whether or not or not Vietnam was nonetheless there. I simply bought fortunate that I joined after it was over. So I felt I ought to have the ability to give again.

I stay within the Villages, Florida. It’s between Leesburg, Florida and Ocala, Florida. I’m with Patriot Service Canines. I’m a board member and assistant coach.

Earlier than I retired, I labored for the New Jersey Division of Corrections as a corrections sergeant.

From 1975 to 1978, I used to be navy police for the Military. Through the Chilly Battle, as most veterans say. Throughout my service, it was extra of a safety capability, escorting ammunition and missiles from bunkers to Air Drive bases. So I really feel uncomfortable if any individual tells me, “Thanks to your service,” as a result of I may need joined, however I didn’t must undergo what the veterans I’ve met have. I really feel that I ought to have the ability to give again to them as a result of they’ve seen fight and I used to be fortunate sufficient to not.

I had many canine in my childhood. My first childhood canine was a golden retriever named Woman. I used to be one in all 4 youngsters, and I used to be all the time bringing a canine dwelling that I might discover as a stray someplace. Even once I was within the service and I used to be stationed in Germany, I had a canine over there.

A canine shall be your companion. Your greatest buddy, with out searching for one thing in return. In order that’s what appeals to me a few canine. A canine is loyal to the person who they stay with, and nothing can change that.

I moved from the Philadelphia space to the Villages in 2019, principally for retirement. Our final canine handed away in all probability about six months earlier than. So I used to be searching for one thing the place I might nonetheless journey and never have a canine at dwelling, however that I might nonetheless have a canine in my life.

I began working with Patriot Service Canines after assembly a person that spoke to me about him volunteering with the group. I reached out with an utility on-line, and so they responded to me and defined what this system was doing.

The mission of Patriot Service Canines is to coach canine for disabled veterans. Our program gives a veteran with a much-needed service, but it surely additionally gives a way for the ladies inmates in Lowell Correctional Institute to do one thing additionally to assist veterans, and in addition for themselves.

They’re really the spine of the coaching for the canine. The ladies of Lowell Correctional do 90 p.c of the work. The exhausting work I ought to say, particularly when you could have an eight-week-old pet that must be potty educated and taught the fundamentals.

My want was to be a weekend raiser. As a result of the canine can study all of the methods, however they should know easy methods to do it on this planet. You don’t have sliding doorways like you could have at grocery shops in jail. You don’t have automobiles driving by. You don’t have trash vehicles driving by, you don’t have buses. So the canine must be uncovered to all that.

They might drop off on a Friday, and you’d have the canine and provides it actual world experiences, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. Then the director would drive them again to their inmate trainers.

Now some canine are proficient in areas of retrieval the place if you happen to drop your keys, they’ll seize the keys and produce them to you. Should you level to it and inform them, they’ll seize your cellphone and provides it to you. They’ll seize the distant management. We train the canine to retrieve canes if an individual has a cane. They’ll brace if folks need assistance steadying after they rise up.

Currently there’s been a number of PTSD canine, and for some purpose you may’t actually train a canine about PTSD, however their senses can inform, as soon as they begin bonding, that that particular person wants some calming or that particular person wants some consideration.

And I’ve met veterans that had a canine for that particular purpose. Certainly one of them had began getting Parkinson’s, and the canine, itself, would put his head in his legs when he felt the man was shaking. After which he would name his spouse over and say, “I would like my meds.” As a result of the canine alerted them that he’s beginning to shake. So, canine are phenomenal at simply having the intuition to regulate to their house owners and what they want.

The primary placement I did with the veteran coaching was with a black lab. He was in all probability seven months previous. I had him quite a few instances, and bought to do a number of firsts, like going to the airport with him, going to malls, going round buses on the airport. He was going to a veteran that by no means had a canine earlier than. So, I bought to see what it’s like for any individual that basically must be taught from the bottom up on easy methods to have a canine in his life.

Earlier than he bought the canine, he couldn’t do crowds, he couldn’t exit in public. It was a singular expertise simply to see him grow to be extra open as we did issues. Even for him not being a canine particular person, you could possibly see that canine was targeted on him on day one. I had him for months. He was nonetheless targeted on that veteran. So, it’s simply wonderful to see that occur. These canine that make it via our program, they know who they’re working for as soon as they get positioned. It doesn’t take that lengthy earlier than a canine turns into a bonded pair with their veteran.

That veteran, the primary veteran I helped with, he was amazed at every little thing the canine might do. It’s a consolation for them. They know that their buddy’s there, their buddy is subsequent to them, and nothing’s gonna change that.

It doesn’t matter who you’re, the tears move at commencement. It’s exhausting to elucidate till you may really communicate to a veteran after he simply will get his canine, after that week of coaching, and the way he feels. It’s so rewarding.

I can’t inform you what number of instances I’ve been thanked. And also you wish to simply say, “Cease saying ‘thanks.’ I’m thanking you due to what you probably did.”

I’m getting a profit simply as a lot as they’re.

Russel Palecek is an Military veteran and retired corrections police sergeant. He works with canine and his fellow veterans at Patriot Service Canines, a winner of the 2022 Defender Service Award. Established by Land Rover, these awards acknowledge the nonprofits doing selfless service for his or her communities day-after-day. You possibly can study extra about this winner at patriotservicedogs.org.

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