365体育官网Jim Foley received community support to raise money to train and adopt a dog. He leaves for training next week and will graduate with his new partner in March.
365体育官网EASTON — Disabled combat veteran Jim Foley has been waiting at least a year for a service dog to help manage his Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.
With help from the Brockton and Easton communities and beyond, he has raised nearly $18,000 to train and adopt a dog. Next week he is heading to the campus of Connecticut-based nonprofit ECAD to be paired with his new service dog.
"This dog is going to be my partner to get me through all the highs and lows," Foley said.
The Brockton native is a Gulf War veteran who served in the Marine Corps for 12 years. He was deployed to Saudi Arabia in 1990 and 1991 for Operation Desert Storm.We can deliver news just like this directly to your inbox. You can sign up for This Just In (a daily 7:30 p.m. newsletter with items we've posted that day), News Alerts (so you don't miss anything important) and more. It's customized to your preferences -- and it'll only take a few seconds.
Around 2011, Foley had a flashback while driving. That year he had also been laid off from work and his mother's health was in decline.
He was also drinking and had thoughts of suicide.
"I know I had some problems, but didn't know what it was all about," Foley said.
365体育官网He went to the VA and filed a claim to become a disabled veteran. The doctor also recommended that he get a service dog.
Foley said he has always liked dogs and previously owned a corgi.
About four years ago, Foley learned about ECAD — Educated Canines Assisting with Disabilities — through another veteran he met at a PTSD program at the Northampton VA. The veteran, Andrew, got his service dog named Marco through the organization.
Last year Foley visited ECAD in Connecticut to learn about the program he would take part in called Project Heal, which is designed for veterans with physical injuries, PTSD, or traumatic brain injury.
365体育官网"I thought to myself: I really want this and this dog will probably save my life," he said.
Foley realized that the dog would serve as an anchor and help him live more independently.
To move forward, he needed to raise $25,000. He got started in Brockton.
365体育官网Foley talked about fundraising with JM Pet Resort owner Jeni Mather, who put him in contact with a firefighter who brought his dog there.
The department was hosting a charity softball game against the Police Department and Foley became the person they supported. That match took place in August at Campanelli Stadium and raised about $1,000 total from ticket sales and a matched amount from the owner of the Brockton Rox baseball team, Foley said.
Fifth-graders at Easton's Richardson-Olmstead Elementary, where Mather's daughter attends, held a change drive and raised about $3,000 for Foley, which helped meet his fundraising goal.
Students presented him with a large check during a Veterans Day assembly. Foley remembers having tears in his eyes and feeling blown away.
Other veterans, local businesses and members of the community also contributed.
"My whole perspective completed changed," Foley said about the fundraising effort. "My thinking now is that most people are inherently good and care."
At one point Foley was stressed about meeting the goal. ECAD said it wanted to help, regardless of how much money he raised, Foley said. The organization offered to subsidize a portion of the cost, bringing the amount that he had to raise to $15,000.
He has continued to fundraise and so far has collected about $17,800.
Foley's training at ECAD begins next week and will last about two weeks. He will participate in lectures and practice with a dog at the organization's campus and in public.
"We try to bring (the veterans) right up to where they are safe and take them right over the line," said Lu Picard, co-founder of ECAD and director of programs. "You have to put yourself in an uncomfortable situation to know that the dog will act."
She recalled the time a veteran called her when he got stuck at the grocery store. Picard told him to tell the dog to take him out of the store, giving the veteran a chance to temporarily remove himself from the situation.
365体育官网Another situation dogs can be trained to do is interrupt a veteran's nightmares, which Foley said he experiences in addition to flashbacks during the day.
There are other programs through the organization, like service dog training to assist people with disabilities and facility dog training to help distressed people in places like hospitals. Dogs also are trained to work with children with autism.
365体育官网Foley visited ECAD earlier in the month and was able to take home one of the service dogs, a Labrador retriever named Emoji, to see how they work together.
365体育官网The first night the dog was there, Foley fell asleep while watching television and Emoji placed her paws on his knees as if to check in on him. He thought it was impressive because she hasn't received special training yet.
There is a chance that Emoji will be the dog he trains with and adopts.
365体育官网"I felt chemistry with her," Foley said. "I think she's the one for me."
He feels a bit anxious about starting training at ECAD and being matched with a service dog, but is mostly excited to get started.
365体育官网Foley will graduate March 11 at the organization's Torrington/Winstead campus. The event is open to the public.
365体育官网Staff writer Mina Corpuz can be reached at email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter @mlcorpuz