By Linda Moody
WINCHESTER, Ind. — The second day after James Garringer became director of the Journey Home here, another “resident” was welcomed into the facility.
Bruno, who was obtained from the animal shelter where one of the veterans is volunteering his services, was adopted by Garringer on behalf of the Journey Home
The new director learned about the dog from the veteran, whose name will remain anonymous here.
“I started volunteering at the animal shelter and, after I got there, he was the only dog cowering in a corner,” said the veteran. “He didn’t want to have anything to do with anybody. I felt like we were a lot alike.”
The veteran, who is an animal-lover, said he started petting him the dog.
“He would get up and walk up and down the fence with me,” the veteran said. “I kept working with him. He was totally a different dog after three weeks of interacting with me. I loved spending time with him and caring about him.”
When the veteran gets through the program and have to leave Journey Home, he would probably have to leave Bruno behind.
“I would be heart-broken,” the veteran said. “I am very attached to him.”
Bruno, he was told, is a Labrador/boxer/chow mix.
“We have taught him tricks. He can sit, shake with his right paw and give us high-fives with his left paw,” the veteran said. “He will lay down and he’ll take a treat out of my mouth.”
The veteran who helped make Bruno’s arrival possible, said he served in the U.S. Navy for four years. He spent six months in the Persian Gulf, six months on the Mediterranean Sea and then he participated in the Operation Iraqi Freedom War.
From Kokomo, Indiana, he said was in the drug treatment program in Marion, Indiana, when he was informed about Journey Home.
“I’m doing better,” the veteran said, as he patted Bruno who stayed close by. “I like it here.”
The dog “adoption” is just one of the things that Journey Home does for its veterans.
“Each individual has his own story and own needs,” Garringer said. “We have to customize for each one.”
He said when he first started his job at Journey Home, he sat down with the 10 veterans who were residing there.
“One of the things they said they needed was spiritual guidance,” Garringer said. “Five of the 10 wanted that, so I put the word out in the community and found two people who are sharing responsibility every Thursday evening for Bible study. It’s non-denominational. This was created as a faith-based organization, but there are no requirements for them to attend these meetings. It’s all volunteer.”
Journey Home, the director said, was adapted after the Shepherd’s Home in Fort Wayne, Indiana.
Garringer also noted that three out of the 10 wanted financial budget training and he got that for them.
“Two guys requested parental training,” Garringer said. “They wanted to learn how to be better parents. That one is a challenge because there no manual for that. We are seeking husband and wife empty-nesters who are willing to ‘adopt’ a vet and take him to the doctor, out to a movie or out to eat like families do and exchange some of their parenting challenges with them.”