The/Studio: Introduce yourself. Tell our readers a little bit about who you are!
Chuck: My name is Chuck Pipkin, I have been married to my wife Tamara for the past 28 years. We have two sons, one is serving in the US Navy and the other is a wildland firefighter for the state of California. My wife and I had started Foundation First K9 a couple of years ago. Doing public boarding and obedience classes helped pay the bills. My Wife Tamara was working part-time as a juvenile corrections deputy. We live in a very rural county in Northern California, the cost of living is high and the pay is not.
I had been a law enforcement officer for 14+ years, six as a K9 handler. An on the job injury ended my career and I was medically retired in April. I had planned to train police dogs after my retirement. I love being a K9 handler and wanted to train dogs for others in the field.
I was retired due to Post-traumatic Stress Disorder and other physical injuries. It took nearly a year to be diagnosed and treated. During my treatment I educated myself and learned all I could about this condition. The information I found was staggering.
On average 22 veterans a day commit suicide from undiagnosed or untreated PTSD.
Nearly 200 public safety personal a year take their own lives, due to PTSD.
These numbers are not made up, this is documented; it’s too high of a cost. I myself have lost four fellow Law Enforcement Officers in my short 14 year career.
The/Studio: Wow, those numbers are shocking. What does your foundation do?
Chuck: My wife and I decided that we need to help. Rather than training police dogs, we would be training service dogs for veterans and public safety personnel suffering from PTSD and/or TBI (traumatic brain injury). The dogs will not only provide comfort but also everyday tasks for the person in need.
1. Retrieving medications, phone or dropped keys.
2. Watching the persons back. Many have extreme hyper- vigilance.
3. Help with balance and/or physical support.
4. Recognizing anxiety attacks and calming or escorting the person from the building.
5. Waking the person up to interrupt nightmares.
From this Post Traumatic Service Dogs was born. We currently have three dogs in training; one is a rescue from a local shelter. We thought why not try and save two lives for the price of one.
We recently were granted our non-profit status and have been awarded two small grants to help offset the cost of training and taking care of the dogs. We have several veterans and one public safety person already waiting for their first service dog.
The/Studio: Congratulations on being granted your non-profit status. That is wonderful. What have you learned since starting your foundation?
Chuck: One thing I have learned is finding the right dogs for our program is very hard. The requirements for a service dog are high, as they should be. We have already washed several dogs from the training program due to differing reasons. But all were easy to place in homes due to their great obedience and disposition.
The/Studio: Where do you see your foundation in 10 years?
Chuck: In ten years I hope to be placing 6 to 8 dogs a year with people in need. We are a small company and we would like to keep it that way. Producing high quality dogs for our clients is much more important for us than trying to place large numbers of dogs.
The/Studio: What about your foundation are you most proud of?
Chuck: As one living with PTSD, and my wife being the spouse of someone dealing with PTSD, we are in a unique position. We are able to help others that are dealing with some of the same issues we did in the past. I love the look on someone’s face when they have been able to tell their story to a person that has lived through the same nightmare, or to provide them with the hope of a canine companion in the future. Working and training these dogs, and hoping I am making a difference, is my therapy.
The/Studio: What is the story behind the custom product that you produced with The/Studio?
Chuck: The logo on our patch was created by my wife and I. The figures in the middle of the patch represent law enforcement, public safety and military. These are the people we are striving to help.
The dog paw surrounding them all represents the canine. These dogs give you all they have, heart and soul. That is why it surrounds the persons in need.
The T in Traumatic is a crucifix. We are a Christian based company and wanted that to show in our logo. Our first public demonstration was to our church board asking for their blessing.
Last our quote “lending our heroes a hand”. Sometimes the hardest thing for us to do is ask for help. As a deputy I was always there to help others, not to ask for help. We ask those in need to help raise funds for the dogs that will be placed with them. We also work with the person and the dog to create a solid service team.
The/Studio: Is there anything our community members can do to help?
Chuck: No we don’t offer hand outs to our heroes we offer a hand up.
We are selling t-shirts and the patches to help fund supplies needed to continue our effort in helping those in need of a service dog.
We are a non-profit organization. So we do except donations. We will accept corporate sponsors and grants. If you want to sponsor a veteran or one of the canines please let us know.
Having PTSD is not what is wrong with you, it’s what you have been through and survived.
Thank you Chuck for sharing your story with us. Your foundation is going to save lives.