Shantell Hoff and K9 Hooch
About me hmm where do I start. Its not my style to write a “book” about myself so I will try to keep it short and sweet.
My name is Shantell Hoff and I grew up in Lino Lakes, MN. At 17yrs old I joined the MN Army National Guard, I thought hey be a great way to pay for college. I had friends in the Guard and my father is a Marine Corp veteran. I deployed to Iraq where I spent a 22 month deployment. A few years later I spent a year on a deployment to Kuwait. I medically retired after 17.5 years in the MNARNG due to injuries from that time and my mental health. I’ve learned over the years that nobody’s experiences, thoughts, feelings, mental health are affected the same way. We all have our own way of coping with the things we have seen and done. I for a long time, pushed it down, still don’t talk about it, tried not to think about it and I thought I was doing good. Well I wasn’t, with my families support of course they had been to all the family BTYRB so they kind of knew what to say or not say and tell me I needed professional help. Over the years I have seen doctors, psychologists which I am not a huge fan of them staring at me and me telling them my life story. Been off and on medication and it works and it doesn’t. There’s no magic pill or phrase someone can say to not have your nights haunted, no sleep, hyper vigilant, not like crowds, not interested in same things you used to be, quick to anger and the list goes on. My job daily I work with veterans so I still am working on a way after 5 years to not take my vets struggles with me and/or remind me of my own struggles. But I love my job and I wouldn’t trade it for the world. All of my experiences in life have made me who I am today so I would never take that back.
About 1.5 years ago I started to accept the fact what I’m doing isn’t working, so I got on a list with another group for a service dog. I didn’t say anything to anyone, maybe I wasn’t ready to admit it to the world how broken I am. Not long ago after dragging myself out of the dark hole I was in, I thought, why wait for someone to gift me a service dog, I can find an amazing breeder and then it should be easy to find someone to pay or help me with training. Boy was I wrong… It was easy I found an amazing breeder and I was drawn to Olde English Bulldogges, his name is Hooch, he was born in Oct. So next was calling, emailing different groups, trainers etc. I either didn’t get called back, told I’d have to pay 10s of thousands of dollars and one person told me “All you Veterans think you deserve it all”, when all I said was I’m a veteran and would like help training my dog to be my service dog. I was very disheartened, down, just upset and wondering if I was making the right decision. Its hard enough to admit I needed help and then to be kicked when I was already down..ughh .One night it dawned on me, why not ask the experts, Soldier 6 who I had been following for about a year, but before thought others needed it more than I so I didn’t want to bother them.
I emailed Soldier 6 on a Saturday pm and within minutes, Dana emailed me back to have hope and she would be in contact. It put a pep in my step like great I’m sure they have resources or guidance for me, I did NOT expect when I was talking to Ed from Soldier 6 to welcome me into their family and program! Writing my bio I am still in shock and so ever grateful for this amazing opportunity. I can’t thank Ed and Dana along with all the amazing trainers and sponsors of Soldier 6 enough, I so look forward to the future now!
If you even have thought in your head about how a service dog could help you, don’t be afraid to admit this is what you need, for you. Its ok to not be ok, it’s ok to be selfish! This is the first thing I have done for me in a longtime and others opinions, feelings and fear of judgment held me back from following thru on what I needed a long time ago. I’m ready to get back to living! Now I am making it about ME.