Cari Woelich and Daisy recently graduated from the JAVELAN Program, a program of the First Responders Foundation that trains service dogs for veterans and retired first responders.
Cari is so thankful to the JAVELAN Program and says that “Daisy gave her, her life back”! Cari and 2-year-old Labradoodle, Daisy, are the 100th Team that has graduated from the JAVELAN Program.
“We knew there was a need, but we had no idea how great a need”.
Tim McAlpine, former JAVELAN Director and one of the program founders said, “We knew there was a need, but we had no idea how great a need”. Cari didn’t realize she needed Daisy. She was used to her life and the way she was living. She said she was almost agoraphobic, anxious about being in a place or
situation where escape is difficult. All of this was due to injuries sustained while serving in the military.
Cari joined the U.S. Air Force on May 30, 2000. Cari, an Air Force Staff Sgt., was injured on the border of Iraq and Kuwait. Her injuries caused permanent damage to both of her knees, her spinal column, and her wrist and also caused hearing loss along with migraine headaches. Cari was medically retired in June of 2007 due to PTSD from the incident and she has been declared 100% permanently disabled.
Pictured here from left to right is Danielle Markins, trainer, with her dog ZZ, Cari and Daisy, Mike Kraus, Dir. of the JAVELAN Program, Tim McAlpine, former Dir. of the JAVELAN Program with his dog, General Patton & his wife Mary McAlpine.
After retiring, Cari didn’t go many places. When she did venture outside she took her oldest son, Alex, with her. They would go to the store and Cari would sit in the car and tell her son what to buy. She didn’t realize how limiting her situation was to her life or her son’s life as she had become accustomed to it. Alex, whom Cari describes as a “great kid” did not mind helping with whatever his mom needed.
After retiring, Cari became part of the Air Force Wounded Warrior program. They initially helped her transition from active duty to retired life, along with giving her resources to help her navigate veterans and other service-related benefits she would be eligible for moving forward.
Rob Hufford called to see if Cari would like a service dog.
In March of 2020, retired Air Force Captain and ambassador for the AF Wounded Warrior Program, Rob Hufford called to see if Cari would like a service dog. Cari had a dog at home that she loved so she told Rob she was not interested but thanked him for the offer. When Daisy’s litter was born, Rob sent pictures of the puppies and again offered Cari a chance at getting a service dog. She discussed it with her family, and they thought it would be a good idea and she shouldn’t rule it out.
“She is your service dog – she “picked” you”!
Cari met with Rob to discuss the idea and to meet some of the dogs. Rob told Cari once she decided to proceed with the service dog they would have to wait for a dog to select or “pick” Cari. Cari didn’t believe that dogs pick humans until she experienced it. On the fourth visit to Rob’s, Daisy kept coming up to Cari and Rob said, “She is your service dog – she “picked” you”!
Rob and his family raise Labradoodle puppies specifically to gift to veterans and their families to be trained as service or therapy dogs. Their non-profit organization is called Pulling Guard Kennels, Inc. and they do not charge for any of the puppies. They also help set up free or low cost training for the recipients. Rob connected Cari to the JAVELAN Program for training for her and Daisy. Rob is an advocate for JAVELAN because the dogs are trained while with the veteran or first responder, so they can continue working on skills away from the trainer and the dogs are trained specifically for the needs of the veteran they are serving.
Cari takes Daisy home and she never leaves her side.
The day that Cari picked up Daisy to take her home was special. Cari stopped by to see Daisy and while she was talking upstairs, Daisy was beside herself downstairs hearing her voice. Once she was let free she ran up the stairs and around the backyard to find Cari. She then peed all over Cari and wouldn’t leave her side. They decided that was the day that Cari could take Daisy home. Cari said that has been so comforting that Daisy chose her and they are a true team. Daisy has changed Cari’s life for the better and has given her independence again. Daisy never leaves her side.
Cari said that without Daisy she wouldn’t be out in public like she is now. She would still be staying home and relying on Alex. She knows she put a lot of fear into Alex and didn’t want him to do the things teenagers do like spend the night with friends or drive alone. She was afraid for herself and for him. Now that she has Daisy, Alex has his independence and Cari has relaxed as well.
Sleeping has changed for Cari with Daisy by her side. Due to constant leg movement and dreams, Cari always slept alone. Now Daisy sleeps with her and has one part of her body touching Cari all night. Now, usually, Cari is able to sleep peacefully at night instead of napping off and on all day and she gets up at a “normal” time.
Taking trips with Daisy.
Cari has even been taking trips with Daisy. Her favorite hockey team is the Nashville Predators. Each year they have veteran events and they always invite Cari. Last year she took two trips to Nashville for several days and she loved every minute of it. Cari said her biggest issue was everyone wanting to pet Daisy and asking her a lot of questions. She even feels comfortable with all this attention most of the time.
Daisy wears an E-collar and a vest when she is “working”. She knows when she is working and will not even eat treats while “on the job”. She is very protective of Cari and senses what she needs. When Cari is having a rough day she will just sit by her all day. When the vest comes off Daisy becomes a puppy. She loves to play ball. Daisy and Cari’s neighbor has a routine of playing ball most days when her neighbor gets home from work. It is a great help for Cari and wonderful exercise for Daisy. Daisy almost seems to be able to tell time knowing each day when playtime is about to begin.
Training with JAVELAN.
All of the JAVELAN Training was held at Cari’s home. Cari and Daisy felt very comfortable with Danielle, their trainer and quickly learned to trust her and follow her teaching. Cari had to learn to be consistent with her commands and direction with Daisy. Cari also had to learn to trust and depend on Daisy. With each day Cari and Daisy learned to trust each other more. The JAVELAN trainers are always available by phone or text to answer questions or give suggestions right when needed. Cari said the access to the trainers when needed was invaluable.
Cari and her husband Joe live with their two sons, Alex and John. They have two other dogs, Loki and Waylon. Daisy and Waylon are best friends and Waylon sleeps with her and Cari too.
Cari thanks the JAVELAN Program for everything. She sends special thanks to Danielle, her main trainer. Danielle not only trained Daisy she also gave Cari the confidence she needed to do things that have been life-changing. Cari will forever be grateful.
Congratulations to Cari and Daisy, JAVELAN’S 100th graduating team!
For more information on the JAVELAN Program click here.
If you are a veteran or a retired first responder in need of a service dog please contact Mike Kraus the Dir. of the JAVELAN Program at email@example.com.