Maine veterans find new lives in nature with agriculture work and training dogs

Helaina Lake and K9 Xena, Mike Wedge and K9 Sis, Eli Ranquist and K9 Bella, Alan Johnston and K9 Gypsy- all veterans who have found solace and love with their Paws for Peace dogs.

By Ramona du Houx
Nature is providing unique opportunites for veterans to contribute and find their missions in life.

A new first-of-its-kind 30 minute television program to begin airing in Maine in January, 2017. The documentary series, Growing Home, is the first to tell the stories of U.S. veterans who have transitioned to a life of agriculture and outdoor related careers. The program will air Sundays at 11am, beginning January 8, 2017 on NBC affiliate WLBZ2 in Bangor and WCSH6 in Portland.

The show’s website officially launched on Jan 6thThe series captures the lives and passion of Veterans who are now serving their country through farming and the great outdoors.

The program was filmed mostly across the state of Maine at 15 locations including homestead farms, deer farms, potato farms, a winery and more. Growing Home is hosted by Clint Bruce, a former Special Operations Officer and ex College and NFL football player. Mr. Bruce provides insight and encouragement to the viewers based on his own experiences.

Maine’s beautiful landscapes, strong agricultural communities, and one of the highest percentages of veterans per-capita made the location a perfect fit for the production. The 13 episode series is being produced by Maine natives at Up Country Productions Inc. with offices in Hermon, ME and Houston, TX.

Photo by Ramona du Houx

Along with much current national attention on the veteran community, the movement of veterans into agriculture is an emerging trend that the USDA and the VA have worked to promote. The producers feel that this show’s relevance and timeliness will help it find it's way to a national audience after it's initial run across Maine.

While there is nothing like having the openess of Maine's countryside embrace your soul, having a dog at your side to share the expierance enhances the journey - for anyone. People of all ages are rejuvenated by such retreats.

Through participation in Embrace A Vet's (EAV) health and wellness retreats and/or a highly successful service dog program, veterans are finding their way back to reintegrate into society.

EAV's mission is to provide direct and supportive services to Maine veterans and their families living with the symptoms of Post Traumatic Stress (PTSd) and Traumatic Brain Injuries (TBI) through the work of a dedicated group of volunteers and community leaders. 
 EAV’s Paws for Peace offers a way for veterans to reconnect with their families, friends and their communities by teaching them to train their own service dogs through a comprehensive 16 week program provided at no cost to veterans. After a comprehensive screening by canine training specialists North Edge K9, dogs are adopted from local shelters and other facilities, giving them a new home and a new “leash” on life.
Both veteran and service dog work as a team with a renewed sense of honor, purpose and determination. Beyond basic service dog behavior, each veteran selects at least two special tasks for the dog to address specific needs including medication reminders, soothing anxiety attacks, retrieving dropped items, creating personal space behind the veteran, and many others.
Hope and healing are the hallmarks of EAV and, with the help of generous donors, they are grateful to provide this crucial service to our Maine veteran community.
 Photo: Cody Winslow and K9 Gia meeting for the first time.
Cody is in the current training class in Portland which is in it's 5th week.
About EAV:
Embrace A Vet (EAV) is a non-profit Maine Veteran service organization dedicated to supporting veterans and their caregivers through the challenges of Post Traumatic Stress (PTSd) and Traumatic Brain Injuries (TBI). Embrace A Vet was founded by Joy Johnson, a tireless advocate for veteran families, who recently passed away.
EAV is a non-profit 501(c) (3). All programs are provided without cost to the veterans and their families. Please visit: 

About Up Country Productions Inc:

Up Country was formed by Maine natives, Deborah Gould and cousins Kit and Lane McCall. Deborah provides the sales and marketing expertise. Kit graduated from the New England School of Communications. Lane graduated from the New York Film Academy. In all, they bring a combined 30 years of production experience.

Vets can call:  1-877-4AID-VET for help.

Or the Veterans Crisis Line connects Veterans in crisis and their families and friends with qualified, caring Department of Veterans Affairs responders through a confidential toll-free hotline, online chat, or text. Veterans and their loved ones can call 1-800-273-8255 and Press 1, chat online, or send a text message to 838255 to receive confidential support 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. Support for deaf and hard of hearing individuals is available.