Speaking up for veterans who have no voice

Save A Vet helps retired police, military dogs find homes

Lackey, a 4-year-old German shepherd, with his handler, Dave Crawford.
Lackey, a 4-year-old German shepherd, with his handler, Dave Crawford.

DeKALB – His name is Lackey, but it could be Lucky.

The friendly German shepherd who loves to be patted spent three years working in narcotics and apprehension for the Baltimore (Maryland) County Police Department. Unlike countless other dogs with a similar background, Lackey, now retired, has found a home.

For the past eight months, the 4-year-old canine has lived with Dave Crawford in a converted water treatment plant in East Dundee. Lackey is one of 13 dogs that have been placed with disabled veterans in permanent homes through Save A Vet, a nonprofit organization Danny Scheurer formed in 2007.

Most of the homes are in whatever buildings they can find, including an old retirement home in Elgin. Scheurer is starting a home in Indiana, which he says will be filled in a week.

“We turn down dogs every day because we’re out of room,” Scheurer said.

Scheurer is hoping to find a larger facility in DeKalb, in partnership with Northern Illinois University. He has his eye on Lincoln Hall, which has been vacant since last fall. Located at the corner of Annie Glidden Road and Lucinda Avenue, the 280,562-square foot, five-story residence hall was built in 1961 and once housed about 1,000 students.

Scheurer is hoping to house 800 student veterans and 300 animals in the building, and use it as a pilot program for other – possibly larger – universities.

“They are a perfect school to start with,” he said. “Imagine all the vets we can help. I think it’s a match made in heaven.”

According to Jarvis Purnell, director of Off-Campus and Non-Traditional Student Services, about 850 veterans currently attend NIU. There is no veteran-specific student housing; like other students, they are housed throughout the area.

Purnell said NIU has been ranked by GI Jobs among the top 10 percent of military-friendly schools in the country.

Dr. Eric Weldy, vice president of Student Affairs and Enrollment Management, said the Save A Vet proposal is one of several the university is considering for Lincoln Hall. NIU officials have talked to Scheurer about his proposal and have requested a budget model.

If the university comes to an agreement with Save A Vet, he said, NIU would determine the housing arrangements.

“We have a number of needs,” he said. “We are really in no rush at this point.”

According to the Save A Vet website, Scheurer, a disabled veteran who served in Iraq, got the idea for the group when he learned that a pair of military-trained canines were being abandoned by a private contractor in Iraq to save the cost of transporting them home.

Scheurer said the dogs, after they “had saved a lot of lives,” were forced to fend for themselves on the streets of Baghdad. Scheuer saw the dogs as comrades-in-arms who needed – and deserved – the same protection as a human veteran.

From its humble beginnings in Lindenhurst, the volunteer-driven organization has grown to more than 4,500 volunteers throughout the country. Their mission is to place as many military and police dogs as they can, rather than see animals which can no longer perform their duties and can’t be adopted through traditional channels euthanized.

“The dogs are never caged and are treated better than the vets,” said Crawford, a board member and customer service rep. “They get full run of the house. In eight years, I’ve fired three vets, but never a dog.”

Scheurer is also working with the NIU College of Business to spread the word about Save A Vet in this area.

“The students immediately fell in love with the dogs and the cause,” said Joan Petros, director of the Learning Center at the NIU College of Business.

Once Save A Vet raised the required $10,000 project fee, Petros said 12 students were assigned to produce a 60-page magazine that will be distributed free of charge to incoming students next fall. Petros said they decided that would be the best time to generate the most attention; in the spring, many students are involved with graduation and getting jobs.

The magazine is one of a half dozen graded projects ELC students work on during a 16-week semester. Some graduating seniors involved with the magazine, Petros said, have volunteered to help finish it this summer.

“I think it’s really a great cause,” said magazine editor-in-chief Theresa Van Den, a senior marketing major from North Aurora. “I wish I could support them more.”

For more information, go to save-a-vet.org.

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