One of my earliest memories, maybe the age of 3, is attempting to make friends with the families semi feral cat Blackie. It has been said through the years that I had always been drawn too and had a way with animals, often preferring their company over that of humans. It appeared to some that I could communicate with them in a way that only they could understand.  Now, looking back I can say, that working with and being in the company of any animal really, is my safe place, it is where I feel whole and can be comfortable and free of the judgments of fellow human beings.

     I traveled through my childhood connecting with animals and always seeking them out.  It wasn't until my early 20's that things came together and I found my calling so to speak. I was adopted by my first dog, yes she found me, and I became involved in rescue. I began to foster the hard to place ones, those with behavioral problems and those least likely to be adopted. I spent many hours with them, watching them engage and communicate as a pack. I learned to speak dog. I found that if I could communicate with them using a language that they could understand, our bonds became stronger, they were rehabilitated faster, and adopted into forever homes faster.

     Fast forward a few more years and I was contacted by a VA Counselor who had a Veteran that wanted to adopt a troubled dog that I was working with. This pups bio spoke to the Veteran and their stories of abuse were similar. My Dad was a Veteran with P.T.S.D. and life's school of hard knocks left me with some of my own "broken". I went ahead and arranged a meet and great, letting all know that this pup had a lot of baggage and possibly would not even acknowledge the Veteran. Much to my surprise, the Veteran and pup hit it off immediately, and they changed each others lives. They both walked out the door that day, forever changed and never looked back.

     To know me is to know that I am super O.C.D. about anything I get involved in.  I will research and drive you crazy with my questions. I left that meet and greet forever changed because of a number and that number is 22. In passing the VA counselor told me that was the number of Veterans that commit suicide a day because of P.T.S.D..  She has also mentioned the use of service dogs to help our Nation's Heroes diagnosed with PTSD. I went home that night and could not sleep knowing that 22 families lost a loved one that day, and I could not do nothing anymore. I knew dogs, and I knew PTSD intimately, and I was pretty sure I could do something rather than nothing. I wanted to combine my passion of rescue and Veterans in a way that would be beneficial to both.

     I based my program on using rescue dogs, to be trained by their handler as their Service Dogs.  In my early days, I was told I couldn't do it. It wouldn't work, there was no way this crazy dog lady could create a program on little to no funding, and make a difference. Well, tell me I can't and I will prove you wrong all day long. I didn't care if it was one dog and one Veteran a year that I helped, as long as I was doing something. Well, as you can see I did and still do bringing  us to the here and now, and the program called Mutts Mending Mankind.

Michelle "Shelly" Cote

A.K.A. "Momma Hen"