RIPLEY — Jackson County veteran Jerry Elswick had been postponing his medical treatment since May because he couldn’t find anyone to watch his dogs. It got to where he couldn’t put it off any longer.
Then Kountry K-9 stepped in to help.
Kristie Carr, owner of Kountry K-9 Groom and Board in Ripley, offers free boarding for veterans while they’re seeking medical treatment. Elswick was the first to take up her offer.
Gloria Husk, founder and CEO of We Have Your Six, a group that helps veterans in need, learned about Elswick’s situation and posted on her Parkersburg-based nonprofit’s Facebook asking if anyone could watch his dogs.
She was just hoping a kind stranger with farmland would offer to take the dogs while the owner was in the hospital. Then Carr reached out.
She had never heard of a boarding facility offering this — she was speechless.
“I was just blown away that she would do this,” Husk said. “This is the way that she makes a living … it’s just amazing that she would do something like this.”
Within two weeks, the dogs were at the shop located on Ripley’s Church Street. Husk’s organization provided food and money for the dogs’ kennel cough treatment — Elswick was so grateful.
A pup’s home away from home
Elswick’s dogs, Honey and Jake, are his babies. He’s counting down the days until he can see them again.
“It meant a lot to me knowing that there was that service available,” he said. But that didn’t make saying goodbye any easier.
It was an emotional drop-off. He kept asking for kisses from both his babies. Once he was covered in licks he finally told them what he always says when he leaves the house.
“I said ‘daddy be back.'”
They are halfway through their six-week visit and have made quite an impression on the staff.
Honey, an 11-year-old golden retriever, is a calm and sweet lady. She has a designated toy at the kennel — it’s a small stuffed dog with golden fur like hers and a red nose, tail and ears. She can be seen walking around in the back of the shop with the stuffed pup in her mouth and a wagging tail. She welcomes back rubs from all whom she meets.
Honey has cancer. With a lump in her side, she wobbles with every step she takes. She’s given medicine to help reduce the swelling twice a day. Carr said the cancer is terminal and everyone on her staff is hoping and praying that the veteran will be able to hug his sweet girl again before her time is up.
Her young, energetic brother Jake is a 3-year-old lab mix who always tries to steal the attention. He’s one of the most playful dogs Carr has ever met, and he never seems to get tired.
The two dogs have a special relationship. Elswick likes to say that Honey is a mom and Jake is her son.
In the meantime, Elswick is able to check on his furry children with Carr’s cameras. He can’t wait to take them on another walk.
Helping veterans in need
Carr has always gone out of her way to help veterans. She wants them to know someone cares.
Her dad served in Vietnam for almost three years and was never the same. Carr wasn’t born until after his time overseas, but she always smiles when she thinks about what her mom said he was like before he served.
His post-traumatic stress disorder was run by depression, mood swings and jumpiness to loud sounds. It would cause Carr to feel like she was walking on eggshells — anything could trigger him. One rainy day her dad woke up, and she and her siblings went to their grandmother’s house. He couldn’t watch them. Depression’s grip was too tight that day.
That’s why she gives back.
“I have this huge facility … I’m able to help and that’s just what you’re supposed to do,” Carr said. “You respect your veterans.”
Carr wants her customers, especially the veterans, to know how their animals are doing while they’re boarded. That’s why she has cameras set up in the small and large dog kennel areas and gives each of her customers access so they can check on their pets.
Kountry K-9 has six employees and Carr said that the dogs are let outside every couple of hours from 7:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. Carr wants the animals to have as much fun as possible while their owners are away.
— Katelyn Waltemyer (she/her) is the General Assignment and Enterprise Reporter for Jackson Newspapers in Jackson County, West Virginia. Have a news tip on local government or education? Or a good feature? You can reach Katelyn at [email protected] Follow her on Twitter @Kate_Waltemyer.
If a veteran has questions about this service, Carr said they can contact her at 304-532-8994.