Taking the First Step on a New Road

Marc’s path through his military career brought him on many journeys; from being pinned down in the Arghandab riverbed with the threat of a sniper looming over him, to building roads in dusty sand and gravel, with the constant danger of landmines surrounding him and his fellow servicemen. After surviving all of this and returning to civilian life, adjusting became a struggle. His mind knew that in Iowa, stepping on sandy ground or gravelly roads didn’t mean danger, but his body still held onto that fear. Taking a step down this new path became an ever-present challenge. 

Little did Marc know that while he was gone, his wife and daughters were looking out for him in a new way. While visiting the state fair, they learned about the Puppy Jake Foundation and their mission. When Marc joined the discussion about a service dog, they agreed that there were problems that he hadn’t adapted to and that it was time to address his PTSD as an illness to be treated rather than a flaw to hide. With his family behind him, they applied to the Puppy Jake Foundation–even though Marc didn’t consider himself a dog person. But he was willing to try anything. 

In 2018, Marc and Bucky matched, with Bucky leading the way down this new path. Bucky was excited and ready to begin his mission, but there was still a lot for the team to learn. It was difficult for Marc to adjust–Bucky is a ‘medical device’ but he’s also a living being. In a job that entailed stressful situations, it took some time for Marc to understand and appreciate Bucky’s nudging and interventions. But with time together, Marc realized what Bucky could do for him.

It was Bucky’s “insane level of optimism” that got Marc to follow Bucky down their new path. At first, he had mistook that optimism for ‘dumb dog behavior’, like the time Bucky noticed a brown rock that resembled his kibble. He used his wet nose to nudge it before trying to eat it. It wasn’t kibble. But Bucky’s a determined pup–it might not have been food the first time, but it might be the next time! Three tries later, Bucky and his wagging tail moved on from the Not-Kibble. Even in play, rolling around with his favorite old soccer ball, Bucky does his job–helping Marc to heal. Now, Marc realized that this ‘dumb dog behavior’, this ‘insane optimism’, this always-wagging tail was there to balance him, to remind him in times of depression that hard moments are temporary–and that it might be time to get a treat and go outside. 


“It’s like having a four-year-old psychologist strapped to you.”


Marc has enjoyed over five years with Bucky, who has helped him through countless nightmares, helped him cross rocky roads, and relieved the feeling of living in the crosshairs of a sniper. Marc no longer has a target on his back, his nightmares are gone, and he walks his path confidently. Bucky’s tail still wags, but it’s time for him to retire from duty. He’s completed his mission successfully, because as Marc says;

“With those things gone, I can’t imagine needing anything else.”

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