Amber, Nic + Duke

Desperate Couple Turns to Adoption to Find and Train the Perfect Service Dog

every gift saves lives

every gift saves lives

Nic + Duke

When my husband came home from his tour in Iraq, he was a different man. Nic received a diagnosis of severe Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). For the next four years, we were heading down a lonely dark and lonely path. We began isolating ourselves from our friends and family. We were losing our purpose in life.

"Duke saved our lives"

Something had to give for us. We researched national organizations who provided service dogs to combat veterans with PTSD. We thought we finally found a lifeline — something that could save my husband’s life. We submitted our application. The wait was excruciating, but we finally got a response. There was a two-year waiting list for a dog!

We suffered in relative silence for nearly five years. I worried my husband would be dead before his name came up for a dog. We cried. He broke down. We felt defeated.

Then my husband said he was going to adopt a dog and have it trained. We searched for local rescue groups and found White Paws German Shepherd Rescue in Green Bay, Wisconsin. We filled out the online adoption application, and someone contacted us in just a day or two. They currently had a litter of seven puppies not yet advertised for adoption. They asked if we could come to an adoption event and look at the pups.

Nic was scared. He hadn’t been out of the house in more than two years other than to get necessities. This event would have a lot of people.

On the day of the event, we found the right booth and met the puppies. A cute tri-colored Shepherd immediately started following Nic around. When he picked up a puppy named Duke, my husband smiled for the first time in years. We both cried. It was an emotional experience for everyone who witnessed it.

We adopted Duke and Nic trained him to be a PTSD service dog. Duke’s training and skills have allowed Nic to become part of society again. I was amazed the first time he went grocery shopping. Now he can go shopping, to a park, to the Brewer games, to weddings and even board airplanes!

With Duke by his side, Nic went back to college last fall. Duke accompanies Nic everywhere and is well- known at the Milwaukee VA Hospital where they both help other vets as well. Nic and Duke have been guest speakers at 4-H and father-son events. Nic uses any opportunity to educate the public on the importance of service dogs. Nic still has his struggles, but Duke is right there helping him through every moment.

White Paws saved our lives when they approved us to adopt Duke. For the past year and a half, we have helped transport, foster dogs and volunteer our time to repay the group who rescued us.

Each year, the Petco Foundation invites adopters to share the story of how their adopted pet changed their lives during the annual Holiday Wishes campaign, giving the organization that they adopted from a chance to receive a grant award. This story by Amber and Nic Marzahl won White Paws German Shepherd Rescue in Green Bay, Wisconsin a 2016 Holiday Wishes award.