An Army veteran with post traumatic stress disorder and his dog-training business partner are on a mission the pair are trying to make it easier to get service dogs to veterans and first responders in need through their new non-profit, Rescued Abilities Project.
Seven months ago, Sean Olivier never pictured himself with a service dog of his own and since then helping those who need service dogs, get a dog, has become a passion.
“I was in the military 5 years. I went in, in 2008 did a tour in Iraq 09-10 was in Baghdad. I was a first cav, I loved every minute of it.” said Olivier.
After being discharged, Olivier came home with more than just physical injuries.
“This is Chloe. She’s my service animal for PTSD.” said Olivier, as Chloe sat in his lap.
Olivier, battled with PTSD for years.
“I didn’t like people. I wouldn’t leave the house. I would stay home and go to work, that’s it.”said Olivier.
He never really considered a service dog,
“These animals… in my eyes, is there’s always someone worse than me and I’m taking their spot.” said Olivier.
Until he met Mark Sonnier at a coalition meeting with Disabled American veterans…
“When I first met Sean, his out was a fidget spinner.” smiled Sonnier.
When the pair met, Olivier wanted to help Sonnier with service dogs in any way he could. Long story short, Sonnier trained Chloe and paired her with Olivier seven months ago.
“I’ve seen Sean get out in public more.” expressed Sonnier.
“It takes you away from your family. It takes you away from your kids, away from your wife and it makes you very detached. She’s allowed me to get some of that back.”said Olivier.
And just about six months ago, Sonnier and Olivier, joined forces, creating Rescued Abilities Project.
“I had a want in the background, to help people with the funding of these dogs.” explained Sonnier.
“We wanna help the ones who can’t go spend the 20-30 thousand, 40 thousand dollars for a service animal you know? The ones trying to live off of their VA disability check that barely getting by.” said Olivier.
Chloe helps Olivier by diverting his attention whenever he gets anxious, she also creates a barrier between him and strangers allowing him to have personal space. The business model idea is to make it affordable if you can pay for service dog training. If you can’t, the cost would come out of the non profit.
Rescued Abilities Project is expected to be in full force by January. The non profit plans on having a big fundraiser to help with training costs on March 31 at their kennel in Duson. Sonnier and Olivier say there will be an Easter egg hunt for the kids, as wellas a 5K run and fun for the whole family. Also, 4 veterans in need will receive a very special surprise. They will release more information when closer to the event.