This calendar’s not just for the dogs

Fundraiser links veterans with service dogs


OP_HeinzmanDon Heinzman
ECM Columnist

If you are a lover of dogs and want to help a military veteran with post-traumatic stress disorder, you should consider buying a special 2013 calendar donated by Lynn and Paul Sansale of South St. Paul.

You can buy this special “Rescued Heroes” calendar this month and thereby help a Minnesota veteran suffering from the after shocks of combat get a trained service dog.

If 285 of these 1,000 “Rescued Heroes” calendars can be sold by mid-January, all the $15,000 in proceeds will go to train a dog for a Minnesota war veteran who requests that dog.

The calendars with 12 hand-painted rescued trained service dogs by artist Paul Sansale are on sale for $15 at front counters of 18 Frattallone’s Hardware stores in the Twin Cities area.

Fitz, the calendar cover dog, belongs to Tony, an Iraq veteran from Minnesota, who can’t get along without him.

The $15,000 is the cost of training the service dog in Florida, including three weeks of training with the soldier suffering from PTSD.

This story starts with Lynn and Paul Sansale, who wanted to do something special after he retired and she lost her job at Children’s Hospital.

When they saw a friend’s trained service dog named Lucy snuggle with kids at a Reading Education Assistance Day (READ) session, they fell in love with Lucy and decided to publish a calendar of rescued trained Minnesota service dogs.

Paul took photographs of 12 of these dogs and spent hundreds of hours painting them, while Lynn wrote the story of each – one a pit bull named Cedric that was about to be euthanized and another of Dobie, a black lab, who was dropped four stories from a parking ramp.

The Sansales were partial to the dogs, because they once had one, “Molly,” who helped their daughter cope with cerebral palsy.

They published the 2012 calendar featuring Paul’s paintings and Lynn’s stories, which drew national attention.

So how did the Sansales get involved with providing service dogs to help veterans with PTSD?

While they were marketing their service dog calendar, Grace Morris, owner of a dog-sitting business in Brooklyn Center, told them about non-profit “Paws and Stripes” located in Albuquerque, N.M., that provides service dogs to veterans for free. Jim Stanek, an Iraq war veteran whose service dog Sarge helped him deal with PTSD, began the service.

Last fall, working with Stanek and K9s for Warriors in Florida, Lynn and Paul drove 6,000 miles and visited 12 veterans around the country with PTSD who told them how the service dogs aided them and in some cases saved their lives. Paul intends to paint these 12 dogs from photos he took on their two-and-a-half-week trip, and Lynn will write the inspirational stores for their 2014 calendar. Through these calendars, they hope to inspire others to provide service dogs for veterans.

Lynn has since learned of a Marine veteran, whose family lives in Blaine, who just got a service dog. The Kraus Hartig VFW Post 6587 of Spring Lake Park sponsored a benefit that helped pay for that dog. Commander Don LaCroix says the former Marine and the dog are inseparable.

Lynn also helped organize “Minnesota Service Dogs for Veterans” with the tag line: “Fighting the invisible wounds of war.”

Your buying a calendar is part of the solution.