Kenny and Ruger

‘Pay it Forward’ has never been so accurate…

While serving in the U.S Air Force, Kenny was a heavy weapons specialist primarily focused in security. Whether he was over the armory, nuclear weapons convoys, personal details, or the Lockheed U-2 reconnaissance aircraft, Kenny was responsible for a lot of important and expensive equipment. And frequently subject to heavy fire. 

In 1993, Kenny had fulfilled his contract and began the transition back to civilian life. The change didn’t come easy. For almost 2 years, Kenny felt lost and struggled with the lack of structure and comrade the Air Force had provided. He felt like he had no purpose. The many combat situations that he had experienced also took a toll on his brain patterning. In 1995, Kenny decided he would become a volunteer firefighter and then began studying to be an EMT. With no previous background in medicine, Kenny had to start from the beginning. Despite the schooling, Kenny discovered pre-hospital care to be his new passion and continued on in order to serve as a paramedic for the next 16 years until retirement in 2021. 

In 2008, Kenny and his partner were on stand-by while the Caldwell County SWAT team was executing a search warrant in the hidden valley area. Bullets flew and 2 operators were hit in the process, but Kenny responded instantly with life saving aid (and eventually the pain killers) so both operators could be transported to the hospital for further care, one of which was the Assistant Team Lead, Sergeant Erle Davis!

In 2017, Kenny met Billy Icard (one of our veterans from last year) working at a by-veteran, for-veteran non-profit taking veterans on fishing and hunting trips. Billy got Kenny involved with the Community Based Outpatient Clinic associated with the Hickory VA which began the process to get Kenny the proper diagnosis and the disability benefits he had earned. Billy encouraged Kenny to reach out us for more support. During the interview process Kenny didn’t know Erle worked here and Erle didn’t know who Kenny was! Amazingly small world!

Kenny presented a unique situation that provided us with a potential new strategy to help vets. He already had a dog who he had been working with in various obedience skills and who showed the appropriate intellect and personality, Steve, from Fortified K9, took the challenge to see if Kenny’s pre-established dog could pass service dog standard testing. Steve was willing to keep the same price he charges us for one of his dogs for 1 month of boarding and training with Kenny’s dog. We sent Ruger, a 4.5yr old American Pitbull to Steve’s facility in TN in March to see if Steve could get Ruger up to par. 

By the time Kenny was reunited with Ruger at the end of April, Kenny was floored at Ruger’s progress. Ruger learned quickly and efficiently. Steve was able to further his obedience training, practice him in social settings, and demand a level of performance that allowed Ruger to pass the qualifying standards; Ruger was able to receive his official NC Service Dog Status ID badge! Training a vet’s pre-established dog opens the possibilities to be able to provide this service to so many more vets. And, the bond between beast and master has already been established, which is the hardest part in picking a brand new dog!

We are so happy to return the favor that Kenny has provided Erle and so many others. Both home and abroad, Kenny has intentionally had everyone else’s back, it’s about time he gets someone to have his!

*** We will be accepting applications for training existing dogs as well as continuing providing new dogs for the future Shepherds for Sheepdogs Events. Veteran owned dogs will be required to undergo a different application process including professional screening for appropriate innate skills. NOT all veteran-owned dogs will be accepted. ***