Interview by Diane Baren
One of the ways the Crockett Foundation focuses on helping to improve the lives of US Military Veterans is to pay the veterinary bills and food costs of their pets and service dogs. We interviewed Tim Radzicki about the assistance he received through Dr. Ashley Gray at the Animal Medical Hospital in Charlotte.
- Question: What branch of the military did you serve in, and what years?
Answer: I served in the Marines from 2000-2004 in Iraq.
- Question: In layman’s terms, when you were on active duty what did your work entail?
Answer: I was a maintenance manager specialist in charge of vehicles repair.
- Question: What’s your dog’s name, and is she a mix or a purebred dog?
Answer: Her name is Gracie and she’s 100% Border Collie. Her lineage is from an AKC herding line.
- Question: Is she a service dog?
Answer: Gracie is not a service dog.
(Curious about having a service dog? Check out this Crockett Foundation post.)
- Question: How long have you had Gracie?
Answer: I actually got her a month before I got out. When I was preparing to get out of the military I had a goal to go to college but I also knew I wanted a dog. It was important to me, so a month before I got out I actually got my dog. I went into the newspaper and searched for puppies and haven’t looked back. She’s 13 now – and she’s fantastic.
- Question: Has your dog helped you as it might relate to experiencing Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)?
Answer: When I got out I went to the Veterans Administration and there was anxiety at that point. There was something going on with me. I knew that my anxiety took place in Iraq in the war zone, on this single day when I felt a change from the things that lead up to that point. Then in my junior year of college I was getting away from people, and I didn’t want to work for anybody in a job. That type of anxiety. Gracie’s been a great companion for me and helped me to continue being active when I was tending not to want to be with people.
- Question: Border Collies are very energetic. What kinds of activities did you do with Gracie?
Answer: She was on the extreme side of Border Collie personalities. She would run so hard I thought she would die, and I had to tell her to stop. I used to take a pool and fill it up with cold water and make her go in there, and it calmed her down. She was definitely on the extreme end. Her drive was more extreme than anything I had seen. She would chew on a tennis ball and literally chew her teeth down to the gums. So at a young age she needed a lot of dental work at the vet. She’s okay at this age, but she needed dental work last December.
- Question: Have you struggled with covering veterinary bills in the past?
Answer: Gracie has needed surgeries, and in the past I would pay half and my Mom would pay half for the surgeries. My doctor, Dr. Ashley Gray, was pretty generous with me. I’ve been to other vets, and Dr. Gray stands out as someone who would always lower the price. That’s been very kind and helpful.
- Question: How did Debbie Mrozinski and the Crockett Foundation surprise you with the payment of your veterinary bill?
Answer: Normally I don’t divulge anything to people about being a disabled Veteran, but I did say something about it to my Veterinarian. It turns out that 4 months later my doctor got an email from the Crockett Foundation saying that they’d like to take a Veteran’s medical bills and pay for them. I guess the doctor contacted them and the next time Gracie and I went in for an appointment the Crockett Foundation showed up there at the vet’s office.
- On the day that the Crockett Foundation paid for your vet bill, what was that like for you?
Answer: When I came to pick up Gracie the doctor said to me “I have a surprise for you”, and I was thinking “Oh I hope there’s not TV cameras or anything.” I was having anxiety that day – and they just talked to me.
- Question: How did the surprise take place that day at the vet’s office?
Answer: They were very nice about it. It was very tame. The people from the Crockett Foundation walked in and talked to me, then they took a picture and put it up on Facebook.
- Question: Approximately how much did the Crockett Foundation pay for your Vet bill?
Answer: Around $1,100.
- Question: Could you tell me in your own words what having your dog means to you these days?
Answer: In the beginning I saw a correlation where my dog helped me with anxiety. Gracie’s getting old now, and I’ve come a long way in many ways – so part of me feels like I don’t really need a dog the way I used to. I’ve made steps since I got out of the military and anxiety isn’t as much of a problem for me now. I’m not needing to come home and see my dog for anxiety anymore. Gracie and I are great for each other at this point in our lives.
As you can tell from Tim’s answers, the Crockett Foundation’s work to help pets in veteran’s households is making an impact in the day to day lives of our military heroes and their wonderful pets. That work can only be done with the help of our fans. Please tag in and help out by making a purchase today at crockettfoundation.com/store or a donation at crockettfoundation.com/donate.
To help Veterans living with PTSD to have greater joy in their lives you may donate to the Crockett Foundation here.