Calendar sales to help veterans recover from PTSD

If you are a lover of dogs and want to help a military veteran recover from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, you should consider buying a special 2013 calendar donated by Lynn and Paul Sansale of South St. Paul.

You can buy this special “Rescued Heroes” calendar this month and help a Minnesota veteran suffering from the aftershocks of combat get a trained service dog.

If 285 of these donated 1,000 “Rescued Heroes” calendars can be sold by mid-January, all the $15,000 in proceeds will go to train a dog for a Minnesota war veteran who requests that dog. K-9s for Veterans will choose the recipient.

The calendars with 11 hand-painted rescued and trained therapy dogs and one service dog by artist Paul Sansale are on sale for $15 at front counters of 18 Frattallone Hardware stores in the Twin Cities area, including the Burnsville location.

“Fitz,” the calendar cover dog, belongs to Tony, an Iraq veteran from Minnesota, who can’t get along without him.

It costs $15,000 to train a service dog in Florida, including three weeks of training with the soldier suffering from PTSD.

This story starts with the Sansales when they saw a friend’s trained service dog, “Lucy,” snuggle up to kids reading at a Reading Education Assistance Day session. They fell in love with “Lucy” and decided to publish a calendar of rescued and trained Minnesota service dogs.

Paul took photographs of 12 of these dogs and spent hundreds of hours painting them, while Lynn wrote the story of each – one a pit bull, Cedric, who was about to be euthanized and another of Dobie, a black lab, who was dropped four stories from a parking ramp.

The Sansales were partial to the dogs, because they once had one, “Molly” who helped their daughter cope with cerebral palsy.

They published the 2012 calendar featuring Paul’s paintings and Lynn’s stories, which drew national attention.

So how did the Sansales get involved with providing service dogs to help veterans with PTSD?

While they were marketing their calendar, Grace Morris, owner of a dog-sitting business in Brooklyn Center, told them about the nonprofit “Paws and Stripes” located in Albuquerque that provides service dogs to veterans free. Jim Stanek, an Iraq war veteran, whose service dog “Sarge” helped him deal with PTSD, began the service.

Last fall, working with Stanek and K9s for Warriors in Florida, Lynn and Paul drove 6,000 miles and visited 12 veterans around the country with PTSD who told them how the service dogs aided them and in some cases saved their lives. Paul intends to paint these 12 dogs from photos he took on their two-and-a-half-week trip, and Lynn will write the inspirational stores for their 2014 calendar. Through these calendars, they hope to inspire others to provide service dogs for veterans.

Lynn has since learned of a Marine veteran, whose family lives in Blaine, who just got a service dog.  The Kraus Hartig Post 6587 VFW Post of Spring Lake Park through a benefit helped pay for that dog. Cmdr. Don LaCroix says the former Marine and the dog are inseparable.

Lynn has learned that since Desert Storm and 2010, a total of 63,241 men and women from Minnesota have served in the armed services and 12,648 are believed to have PTSD.

She’s also helped organize “Minnesota Service Dogs for Veterans” with the tag line: “Fighting the invisible wounds of war.”

Buying a calendar is part of the solution.

Don Heinzman is an ECM/Sun columnist and a member of the ECM Editorial Board. He is at [email protected] Column reflect the opinion of the author.