- Associated Press - Sunday, February 23, 2014

FREMONT, Neb. (AP) - Joe Buzay is direct when he talks about the value of his service dog, Frankie.

“If it wasn’t for him, I’d be dead right now,” said Buzay, a U.S. Army veteran, who served in Somalia, where three of his buddies were killed.

“I got out (of the service) in ‘94 and I just started drinking and I did that for 15 years,” he told the Fremont Tribune (http://bit.ly/1c3DHx2).

He quit drinking in 2009, but his life still fell apart. The next year, he attempted suicide.

“I took enough pills to drop a Clydesdale,” the Minnesota man said.

His heart stopped twice and a doctor told Joe’s mom that he didn’t think the veteran would survive, but he did. Months later he got a canine helper through the Patriot Assistance Dogs program.

“I was a real mess when I got Frankie, but once I met him, everything changed,” he said.

Buzay is among several veterans who’ve benefited from a specially trained dog.

Now, the Second Chance Pups organization is partnering with PAD to help provide dogs to veterans.

Through the organization, a dog from Fremont and two from Wahoo are among nine being trained by inmates of the Nebraska State Penitentiary. In March, the dogs will graduate and go for more training at PAD in Detroit Lakes, Minn.

Former Fremonters Kim Ostermann and Susan Traudt are part of the pups group in Lincoln. Ostermann is director and Traudt is marketing and fundraising coordinator of the all-volunteer organization.

SCP, which celebrates its 10th anniversary this fall, is the prison training and adoption program at the penitentiary. The organization gets dogs from surrounding shelters.

Traudt said a border collie-mix named Chet came from the Dodge County Humane Society in Fremont.

“He had a very outgoing personality and really wanted to please,” Traudt said. “He does have a lot of energy, but we’re harnessing it in the right way and he’s doing very well through training.”

Beth, a boxer-Labrador retriever mix, and Duke, a yellow lab, came from Saunders County Lost Pets Rescue. Beth was friendly and not afraid to approach people.

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