Judging by her first major photo shoot, Scottie, an eight-week-old Labrador retriever, isn’t going to have a hard time adjusting to life in the spotlight as a service or emotional support dog for a mid-valley veteran.
Although she seemed to enjoy being petted by a bunch of strangers, she also seemed right at home spreading out on the floor for a nap.
Scottie is being donated to the local Link Up Vets program by Brad and Holly Christophersen. Holly’s brother, Sgt. 1st Class Scot Noss, a 1996 Lebanon High School graduate, suffered traumatic brain injury while serving as an Army Ranger in southern Afghanistan in 2007.
Chistophersen said the project was conceived when she and her business partner Lisa Craig and friend Amy Hollingsworth were talking about sponsoring a community service project for Christmas.
“We have a male Labrador and my friend contacted me about breeding him to her female,” Christophersen said. “Scottie is one of eight puppies from that.”
The Christopersen’s male lab is named “Benning” after Ft. Benning, Georgia, where her brother received his military training.
“We decided to donate Scottie to Link Up Vets and to raise some money to pay for her food and to help Link Up Vets build a new dog kennel,” Christophersen said.
Wednesday morning, Michael Aaron, president of Link Up Vets, and Aaron Hand, who will train Scottie, picked up the lovable dog at Vintage Nail Salon in Albany.
“We will start with the basic commands such as sit, stay, stay, potty training and working with a leash,” Hand said. “Where she goes from there is up to her and what the needs of the veteran who will get here are.”
Hand said that Scottie may become an emotional support dog, who does not go into local stores, but who provides emotional stability for a veteran with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder or who needs comforting at certain times.
Or, she may become a full service dog, able to help her owner traverse through their home or in local stores.
It’s too early to tell what direction Scottie will go.
Hand said her training will take up to six months. He said he spent three years learning to train service dogs and so far has trained one pit bull and three labs.
Hand said he has Parkinson’s disease and his dog helps him by opening doors or waking him up if he is having a nightmare.
Michael Aaron served in the Marine Corps from 2003 to 2007 and founded Link Up Vets in 2014 to “help take our local veterans hiking, fishing and hunting. We call it recreational therapy. Our goal is to take their minds off their stresses and to get them together with other veterans who support them.”
In 2017, Scot Noss was inducted into the Lebanon High School Hall of Fame, receiving the Humanitarian Service Award.
After high school, Noss volunteered with Youth With a Mission in China and Hong Kong and then became an elite U.S. Army Ranger.
During his 12 years in the Army, he served eight deployments in Iraq and Afghanistan and earned numerous medals, including the Hostage Rescue Award from the FBI, the Order of Saint Maurice Award, a Bronze Star and the Meritorious Service medal.
In February, 2007, Noss suffered a traumatic brain injury when the CH-47 Chinook helicopter in which he was a passenger crashed in southern Afghanistan.
Since then, Noss has been nearly immobile. He spent two years at the James A. Haley Veterans Hospital in Tampa, Florida.
In 2009, Noss and his wife, Ryann, received a new home built by the non-profit group, Homes for Our Troops in Trussville, Alabama. Each home is designed to fit the needs of the individual veteran.
To learn more about Link Up Vets, visit their Facebook page at Link Up Vets.
To follow Scottie’s training, view https://www.facebook.com/Scottie-servicepupintraining-235414344047115/.