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Follow up: Buddy the shelter dog finds forever home with San Diego veteran!

Shelter to Soldier is a win-win, helping both veterans and animals that need a home.

SAN DIEGO — Big news on Buddy! After 16 months of training to become a service dog, the little guy who was discovered in an animal shelter has been paired with a Marine Corps veteran.

Shane Kruchten wasn't planning to join the military, but then the attacks on 9/11 happened. 

“[I] joined the Marine Corps the day I turned 17 - and left for boot camp a few days later.” Shane said. “I gave up a college scholarship for wrestling and went to the Marine Corps instead.”

Shane deployed to Iraq. He wasn't there long when his unit was hit by enemy fire. 

“I took a blast to the left side of my face and I was wounded at 17 years old," said Shane. "So, I ended up having my 18th birthday in Baghdad. At 18 I was already a Purple Heart recipient and a combat vet.”

Shane returned to the U.S. where he recovered physically, so he went back to Iraq. 

“I love my country," said Shane. "I'm passionate about my country - so there's absolutely no way that you can just walk away from that.”

But Shane quickly realized that emotionally, something wasn't right. He later learned that "something" is a combination of PTSD, traumatic brain injury and survivor's guilt. He left the Marine Corps in 2005 with no direction and for the next four years, his life spiraled out of control.

“2009, I was heavily addicted to alcohol, narcotics, everything,” Shane said. “[I] ended up attempting to take my own life in June of '09.” 

Federal agents eventually came to arrest Shane, and one of the officers was a military veteran. 

“He looked right at me and saw my tattoos and saw I had some Marine Corps pictures on the walls and he goes 'why are you doing this to your brothers?'”

It was a sobering moment that turned Shane's life around. Three weeks later, he got a tattoo down his back honoring those that didn't get his second chance at life. 

“Their names, their dates they were killed in action and their ranks so that way [when] I wake up every morning I know I have 19 guys pushing me forward," said Shane. "I can't go backwards anymore.”

Shane has since been blessed with a daughter and a wife. He also fell in love with Jiu-Jitsu and mixed martial arts. He's competing in professional fights and traveling to military bases around the world teaching Jiu-Jitsu and sharing his story. 

“Being able to talk to these veterans and they see - like woah - we're not the only one that's messed up," he said.

The MMA fighter continued to battle his past. And while he thought he was winning, his wife hit him with a knockout punch. 

“'You're not complete' and I'm like, 'what are you talking about?' I thought 'my wife's crazy',” Shane said.

And that's where Buddy comes in. Buddy was rescued from a local animal shelter by the non-profit Shelter to Soldier and over the past several months, we've been following his training to become a service dog. Buddy loves to work, but he also loves to have fun and that led to their instant bond. 

“He's kind of like me,” Shane said. “Look at this guy! He doesn't know where he wants to be right now, but I love that. He's just like me in so many ways.”

Shane and Buddy just started working as a team and still have a lot of training to complete before they'll be together full time, but Shane is already seeing the benefits of Buddy, like providing a buffer space to keep strangers a little farther away - giving Shane's brain time to relax.

And what's in it for Buddy? A forever family filled with love.

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