Sandy & Kodi
One year ago, Brad Kieslowski’s Checkered Flag Foundation selected me as a recipient for a service dog. Kodiak Sandberg is a 90lb, three-year-old, black German Shepard. Prior to receiving Kodi I was interviewed weekly, sometimes daily, for roughly 6 weeks by trainers from Black Paw Canine. It was hard at first, to “open-up” my vulnerabilities to Ben Brockway and his Black Paw Canine staff, but after a week or two of phone calls and video chats, their methods and explanations opened up a lot of sealed-cans.
A few days before I received Kodi, I spent three days with Ben, Emily, Andy, Jess, and Tony. They were teaching me how to handle a dog that can read your mind. Ben and his staff run a great program out of New Albany Ohio. If any of you ever get a chance to go to Ohio, swing by Black Paw Canine HQ, and just watch them train dogs, it’s an awesome site!
Ok, back to the mind-reader. Kodi and I rode together (Ben and staff followed) to Brad Kieslowski's event where I would receive Kodi. I get road rage (who doesn’t?), I have teeth-marks in my steering wheel because of city traffic. Kodi and I haven’t made it out of Columbus yet and he is all over me! Like he is almost in the driver’s seat with me! He’s biting me, tugging on my shirt, licking my face, he’s trying to play! This happened a couple more times during this 3hour drive to Brad's Event. Kodi and I pull into the parking lot and I jump out to tell Ben about Kodi all up in my grill! Ben said, “did he make you smile or laugh?” Yes. “Did he stop you from losing your mind and chewing on your own steering wheel?” yes. “Did he stop once your emotions went to him rather than traffic?” yes. Ben laughed and said “your welcome”. I just stood there in awe and thought to myself, that dog can read my mind.
Brad Kieslowski’s Checkered Flag Foundation is an awesome foundation. If you haven’t heard of it, stop reading this and google it now, you can come back to this goofy story later. I have met too many amazing people through that event. After meeting Brad and his wife, his crew, and his teammates, my NASCAR “fanmanship” went from a 2.3 to a solid 9.0 (Hockey takes my 10.0 spot)! I am a retired Navy SEAL and “shade-tree” mechanic. If you have never been in the pits of a NASCAR race, stand by to have your mind blown! I don’t envy too-many jobs, but to be on a pit-crew would be pretty damn cool. Honestly, I'd rather sit next to Brad's Crew-Chief on an airplane, than a Navy SEAL. Brad, Paige, and everyone else involved, my appreciation level can’t get any higher… Thank You.
Since receiving Kodi, I have visited Black Paw Canine nine times. Every time I stop-in, I learn more about what I can do for Kodi, how I can help him, better help me. Ben and his staff are excellent teachers and due to my prior interviews, his staff is always honing Kodi’s skills to my changing needs. Some times we just stop in for smoked oysters and brewskies.
Over the last 12 months, our families have become great friends. Kodi isn’t just helping me. He knows when Katie had a rough day as well. He’ll nuzzle and cuddle on her until she is smiling and laughing. Same with our boys. He is there for all of us.
Kodi sees and hears things that I can’t, so I can sleep at night. I am not the #1-man in the stack anymore, which relieves a lot of my hypervigilance. He is my swim-buddy, so I am never alone. None of us know that were depressed until its too late, Kodi somehow reads my mind, he knows when to cheer me up, he knows when to take my attention. Sometimes I think Kodi talks more than I do. The feelings and emotions that Kodi brings to my family’s table and to my personal table are unexplainable, but they’re there.
In the last year, Kodi and I have put 40 thousand miles on my truck, his head out the window for 10 thousand of them! I’ve physically seen him run 20 miles in one day, chasing deer and the 4wheeler. It was unknown if Kodi would be a water-dog or not. Well, he has no-issues running after tennis balls off the end of the dock. He loves the beach but hates saltwater, refuses to go in it! He’s a “people watcher”, sits in the driveway all day just watching what everyone’s doing. He’s a nightmare at dog parks. Too many dogs to play with and he’s usually the fastest so they all end up chasing him. He loves taking walks and going on runs with Katie. He likes being brushed and loves beef-jerky. He loves the snow! He’s still trying to figure out how to find Partridge before they scare him, man, you should see him jump! I installed 5 new bird feeders at our Michigan cabin and currently, he’s honing his squirrel hunting skills. His personality is as heavy as he is!
He never leaves my side. I like to tell everyone that Kodi was specifically made for me. Today he is my family’s guardian, my driving navigator, the neighborhood ham, my wife’s cuddle bug, and my best friend.
Thank you Checkerdflag Foundation & Black Paw Canine
-Phil “Sandy” Sandberg