Oct. 20, 2021

Operation K9 Hero- DuWayne Schwartz

Enduring the Badge is a podcast series that explores the personal side of first responders. In this episode, me and DuWayne Schwartz from Operation K9 Hero talked about his and Tio's (his K9 therapy dog) mission on how they shed light on PTSD and mental health issues of first responders. This is a great episode for anyone interested in learning about how dogs can be used to help others cope with mental health issues.

The power of dogs in healing has been around for centuries. Dogs like Tio (who you can see on picture here) and DuWayne Schwartz' K9 hero dog handler are there for you whether for therapy or just companionship; They will provide much more than protection but also bring great joy into someone’s life by simply being there.


Enduring the Badge is a podcast series that explores the personal side of first responders. In this episode, me and  DuWayne Schwartz from Operation K9 Hero talked about his and Tio's (his K9 therapy dog) mission on how they shed light on PTSD and mental health issues of first responders. This is a great episode for anyone interested in learning about how dogs can be used to help others cope with mental health issues.

The power of dogs in healing has been around for centuries. Dogs like Tio (who you can see on picture here) and DuWayne Schwartz' K9 hero dog handler are there for you whether for therapy or just companionship; They will provide much more than protection but also bring great joy into someone’s life by simply being there.

 

Connect with DuWayne:

Operation K9 Hero website - to know more about their mission

Operation K9 Hero Instagram - Follow them!

Operation K9 Hero Facebook - Follow them!

 

Connect with the host:

Host Information
Your host Jerry D. Lund can be reached at 801-376-7124 or email at enduringthebdage@gmail.com or voice message use the icon microphone at www.enduringthebadgepodcast.com. Please feel free to give my information to anyone that might be feeling down or anyone you would like to be on the podcast. Please subscribe to the podcast and leave a review wherever you listen to your podcast.  If you like the podcast please share it and join the online community at www.instagram.com/enduringthebadgepodcast.

Transcript

Everyday Heroes Podcast Network
This podcast is part of the Everyday Heroes Podcast Network, the network for first responders and those who support them.

Intro
Welcome. The trials of first responders in their families aren't easy. Enduring the Badge Podcast is building a community to help them out. Introducing your host, back by 30 years of experience as a first responder, Jerry Dean Lund.

Patriot Supreme 
Hey everyone, before we jump into this next episode, I want to thank my sponsor Patriot Supreme, they make the highest quality CBD products that I know. A veteran owned company with products made right here in the United States. I've used them in their personal life, because they work. I've tried other products and they have not worked and these do, I like the CBD oil, the CBD gummies they have melatonin gummies with CBD in them, they have a deep freeze roll-on that works for those joints that are a little bit sore or muscle pain. I love them all. You should check them out at patriotsupreme.com and don't forget to use the code EnduringTheBadge if you're a first responder that'll get you 50% off. And please go check them out on their Instagram and Facebook page at Patriot Supreme. 

Jerry Lund
Let's jump right into this next episode with guest today. It is DuWayne Schwartz. How you doing Duwayne?

DuWayne Schwartz  
I'm good. Thank you for having me, sir.

Jerry Lund
Yeah, thank you for taking the time to be on. I'm super excited to have you on today. And we're gonna talk about something well, we've talked about on the podcast before, but we you've got a whole different spin, I think the audience is really going to love. Tell the audience a little bit about yourself.

DuWayne Schwartz
So I'm a firefighter, with the Professional Firefighters Wisconsin, local 275. I've been there coming up on 22 years, I was a paramedic as well. So married, three kids. Just uh, you know, just always been passionate about the fire service and anything with public safety. Most of my friends off duty are in law enforcement. A lot of military friends. So yeah.

Jerry Lund 
20 years of service. Yeah, you're right there with me.

DuWayne Schwartz 
Yep, coming up on 22 years. It's been, you know, it just flies by it's been it's been a it's a great profession. And it's been a fun ride. It's been interesting. You know, it's like, you know, it's a unique profession, like none other and yeah, it's it's a good job.

Jerry Lund   
Yeah, yeah, definitely. What's your position out there in Wisconsin?

DuWayne Schwartz 
So, yeah, so I'm a fire inspector. So, you know, obviously our, our any position within the fire service, it's a public relations role, but mine's maybe a little bit more so.  I'm in and out of all the businesses and all the schools, public safety, fire prevention and inspections, obviously, than any incident we have I investigated. Do a fire investigation. So yeah.

Jerry Lund 
So a guy who wears many hats is what you're saying?

DuWayne Schwartz 
Many, many hats. I mean, we all do in the fire service, as you know. But yeah, that's my rank right now.

Jerry Lund
Yeah, how much longer you gonna stay? Do you think? Gee, we are assuming that you're not outside? Oh, yeah.

DuWayne Schwartz 
Right. I try not to think about that. Yes, I still feel young. You know, um, you know, I have a while yet I have a while yet. You know, I'm still happy where I'm at. So we'll see how it goes.

Jerry Lund
Yeah, no, I can completely understand that. Duwayne has a very cool, called Operation Heroes, Operation K9 Heroes program. Let's talk a little bit about that and how that started.

DuWayne Schwartz 
Yeah, so it started. I'm just passionate about the well being of our public safety professionals, and our military personnel and veterans. I just always have been, and especially the last couple of years, how things have been going with our country and stuff. So I wanted to somehow shed the light on PTSD and give back and help others in need. On and off duty, on my off time, and especially relating just to the mental health and PTSD and have our brothers and sisters that you know, are facing this and we we've been hearing about PTSD a lot. And there's a stigma, you know, on the fire service and the law enforcement to and  military that you know, and no, and all those individuals feel shamed or embarrassed to talk about it. And, you know, especially in the fire service, you know, there's that stigma. You hear about PTSD isn't real or it's just part of the job. Are you here to suck it up? Or that it makes you weak and it's just, it's just not like that. And it really bothers me, you know, our firefighters or paramedics and police officers are exposed to many things, as you know, and anybody watching this knows there's it's just it's a unique profession, the first responder community, you know, death, destruction, you know, suicides, hangings, drownings, the list, the list goes on, you know, car accidents, medical car accidents, and everything in between, you know, we see people at their absolute worst, and I think we probably see the world maybe in a different way, just with all the things that we see on a daily basis. You know, we see things that people, you know, on a day that might not see in a lifetime. You know, what I know, I can speak for the fire service that, you know, we tend to blow things off after a call or a traumatic event and kind of blow our emotions off. And in a way, we kind of, we kind of laugh it off. And that might sound weird, or it might sound bad, and I don't mean it bad. But honestly, I think it's a coping mechanism, you know, and I'm sure probably, maybe in law enforcement, they do as well. But I think it's a coping mechanism, probably, and, you know, public safety, people on public safety are just under a, you know, in some intense physical and psychological stress, you know, the work is demanding, mentally and physically, you know, a lot of them are exposed, you know, we're exposed to burn out and, you know, the hours are long and enduring. So, you know, you hear quite often that it's just part of the job, you know, first responders, you know, anywhere you go any first responder, whether it here in Wisconsin, they were across the country, you know, you go above and beyond the call of duty, right, that's just what we do. It's our profession, you have to sometimes doing the job comes at a cost, you know, sometimes it's a cost we can see. 
But sometimes, and I think a lot of the times, it's a cost that we can't see that can be devastating and take a toll on the mental health and well being of our first responders. And it could cause PTSD, and sometimes even worse, it can lead to suicide, which we've seen. Right? You know, so first responders, they, you know, we are you are, we all just put our health and safety on the line, right? It is that is part of the job. Yeah. But we need to protect them and take care of them as well. You know, the professions with the highest PTSD rate are number one, military, number two, law enforcement, police officers, three are firefighters. And there was a study, you know, I was started researching all this, and I think it was 2018, maybe it was 2019. That more firefighters and police officers died by suicide, the line of duty deaths, and that really hit me, that's just crazy to think about, I think it was like 140 police officers, and 130 firefighters have died by suicide last year, or I think the study was the year before. And that didn't sit well with me, you know, and I'm sure it's a result from, you know, depression and PTSD and things like that, just from constant exposure, you know, from traumatic events, you know, like I said, death and destruction and all the crazy stuff that we see. And you know, just the, maybe the general public doesn't even think about stuff like this. So I know that, you know, PTSD, it's a real thing. You know, the rates and the suicide rates are astonishing, they just keep going up. I think they say the average rate of PTSD of first responders five times more than somebody from the general public. And then on the military side, you know, we know our military personnel or veterans or, you know, they experience probably even more, you know, than what we do, they're exposed to so much. 
It's crazy, especially how the world's been, you know, the last couple years and, you know, I know a lot of my friends, you know, in the military and veterans I talked to, you know, they feel loneliness or isolated, you know, hopelessness and depression and that just really sucks. You know, I've always been an advocate for our military and you know, my son just enlisted in the Air Force and that that doesn't sit well with me and that's where all this stemmed, you know, that's where it all came from. I think in our profession, Jerry, first responders, military, we're tight. Community we're all you know, police and fire, paramedics, the military, we work hand in hand. You know, we go on calls together, we just seem to have the same compassion and you know, and the fire service you always hear people hear the term We know the term but it's a brotherhood, right? Yeah. Well, what is a brotherhood, we're brothers and sisters, you know, when you become a firefighter, you're you gain, depending on what your department is. And, you know, I gained 21 brothers and sisters on my shift, you know, we have, I think, 72 total. You know, our professionals like none other, we take care of our own, you know, we, we say that term all the time, that phrase, I'm sure people have heard of it, you know, you, we just do, you know, we have a long standing tradition, and the fire service, we have a long history of, you know, things like duty and honor and respect, and we have camaraderie. That's what a brotherhood is, you know, and I always, I always use this scripture reading, and John 15:13, you know, it says, "What greater love has no one than this, to lay down one's life for another for once friend", you know, and that's the Brotherhood, that's what we do, you know, you'd lay your life down for, for your crew, for your community, and for your country, and our military vets as well. And that's just an honorable thing. And that is part of the job. But um, so that's where this all started. 
And, you know, with PTSD, one of the things that bothered me is, you know, just the stigma, I hear about it all the time. And there is a stigma and there still is there, maybe there always will be. But I know here in Wisconsin talking about before I get into Operation K9 here, I just want to talk about the state of Wisconsin, our governor here, Governor Eavers, signed a bill last year sometime that will help remove the barriers for public safety officials to get workers compensation for PTSD, or things related to PTSD, because in 1974, I know the Supreme Court decision to get workman's comp for anybody in public safety, he had to demonstrate PTSD, that you were diagnosed with PTSD above and beyond what's experienced, normally, well, what's normal for a job? We were under stress every day, you know, there's nothing normal. So that's a hard standard to meet, right. So last year, you know, Wisconsin, the Wisconsin legislator, Wisconsin legislators, the Professional Firefighters, Wisconsin, Wisconsin Professional Police Association, they've, they've been working for like five, six years straight. To get this done, they finally signed the bill, that if you if you're a professional firefighter, police, professional law enforcement officer, if you're diagnosed with PTSD, by a licensed psychologist, that and that's even if it's if the mental condition is not accompanied by like a physical injury, you can get workman's compensation so that alone in Wisconsin, at least, it's you know, the awareness is there, that it's, that's that's an issue, we're starting to take care of our own, we're starting to recognize it. So I from there, you know, I, I wanted to how could I get back? What could I do? Um,

Jerry Lund 
Dwayne before for you jump in there. I'm going to ask you just a couple questions. Just go back a little bit about some of the things you were saying. I recently took a peer. My mind's blank today, I don't know what's going on. I can't get the words out. I just recently took a class and we're talking about statistics of, you know, firefighters and police officers, and you know, what there, the effects of the job is having on them, and they were talking about 1/3 of the people in the survey that they most recently took, were having some suicidal thoughts. 1/3 and I think if, and I bet you not everybody's answering that survey, honestly. So I mean, the the numbers are staggering in just the thoughts of people that are just on shift just working day in and day out. But I also want to go back to your you're talking about some numbers about firefighters and police officers that have committed suicide last year, the year before, depending on the statistics you look at, and that's only ones that are basically they can pinpoint to suicide, or their departments are declaring suicide so that the numbers that are actually being reported are actually I feel are way under than what it actually is out there.

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DuWayne Schwartz 
Yeah, I agree with that. I agree with that. Yeah, that's that. Yeah, you're right. And, you know, when we know, firefighters, and you know, I can't speak speak for police officers, but many of them are my friends too. And I'm sure you know, like, like I mentioned that stigma, you know, you take a survey and you're you're probably not straight. Because you don't want to maybe you just don't want to ultimately have to go through a critical incident stress debriefing or talk about it or, you know, or you're going to have to talk about it with your peers. And you know, and just I understand a lot of people don't want to do that. So they probably aren't honest. And I'm

Jerry Lund 
Were they even admitted to themselves, that they're they're feeling 

DuWayne Schwartz
More admitted to themselves. Yes, yeah. Yeah, exactly. I really didn't think about that. But that's a good point.

Jerry Lund 
Yeah. And I love that love Your love, your passion and your knowledge for this about PTSD. And I'm excited for you jump into this next little segment with what you're doing to give back.

DuWayne Schwartz  
Yeah, you know, I research a lot of things and when I get my mind on something, I just go with it. I'm kind of persistent, I guess. And I'm kind of a little driven. So, you know, this all stemmed, you know, when I was having a coffee cup of coffee with somebody, and that was checking out and having some issues. And, you know, I just started thinking, you know, gosh, what the heck can I do? You know, how, what can I do on my days off? or how can I shed light to this, or bring awareness to this, you know, PTSD, so I started researching and researching, because I just wanted to give back and, you know, volunteer my time and, and so, you know, when I know like, you should go through proper professional channels, right, you should talk to your police or fire chief or, you know, a chaplain or EAP. You know, I talked about critical incident stress debriefing, and I usually have a panel of counselors to talk to somebody from the Red Cross, you know, and those are all great channels, professional channels, and highly recommend them. But I wanted to come up with a way that was less formal, something different. A conversation starter, you know, like an icebreaker or something like that. So I started researching service dogs and the fire service, and facility dogs and therapy dogs. And then at the time, I really didn't know the difference between all them, they seem so they seem similar in the same thing. But you know, a service dog is a professional trained dog. For one individual, specific individual with a disability where a facility dog is a professional trained dog, who works specifically with a professional handler. And that could be someone in police or fire or someone in educational setting, like a teacher, or someone in health care, that serves many individuals, not not just one service many individuals so. 
So I went with that I started collaborating and networking with a lot of different professionals in this area, locally in Wisconsin, and across the United States, actually, and several different organizations. Many of them thought, you know, I should probably start my own nonprofit organization to make things easier, even though I hesitated. And I really didn't want to do that. I didn't want to do anything big. I just want to do this by myself. I wanted to give back and help. That's all I want to know. I didn't Yeah, I didn't want to make it complicated. And let me tell you serving your own nonprofit organization, by yourself. It's complicated. It's not an easy task. It's a long process kind of expensive, and you know, a lot of out of pocket expenses, and they almost set you up to fail, unfortunately, and I thought about just given up a couple of times, but I stuck with it. Because you know, I had something in my head, a vision and a mission. And I was going to I was going to see this to the end. And so that's when I started Operation K9 Hero. And that's where the journey begins. And basically, you know, you can find us on our website at operationk9hero.org. But basically, you know, we're just, it's me, a volunteer, volunteer based nonprofit organization, you know, dedicated to bring comfort and companionship to our veterans laws and public safety through K9  dog. So at that time, I you know, I didn't have one. This whole time while I was starting this nonprofit, I was also in the process of trying to find the right, the right dog for that, but I'll get into that. So our mission is just to give back to the military military right or veterans police officers, firefighters paramedics in need those who just need a little extra support by just providing a K9 human partnership that's really all I wanted to do and help them bring you know some cheer and affection and in some way so you know the primary purpose here is just to help support the mental health of our heroes and offer some sort of emotional support you know, even if it's temporary you know, and studies to have shown that interacting with therapy dogs as part of an animal assisted intervention I guess if you would call it you'll see both the physical and psychological benefits to not only humans but the dog too actually. 
And I got into a lot of research with that I just thought thought that really really cool and that was really interesting but I'm in the process of trying to find the right dog for this mission you know, it had to be a dog that was going to be a fit for me a fit for what I you know what I was thinking I wanted to find a dog that was kind of already professionally trained, one that was unique you know, obviously things like obedient and very outgoing it had to be a dog that was calm and you know, really, really chill you know, a dog that was well mannered but one that was easy that would socialize with a variety of people you know, especially those with PTSD so so I came across Tio, Tio's a yellow lab he's three years old, he actually was selected as a puppy and started his training with one of the leading service dog organizations in the United States so his training included you know, things like different commands and obedience and obviously a lot of socializing, a lot of socialized training and practicing appropriate behaviors to being service dog because that was going to be you know, his mission you know. And all his training started I think he was at eight weeks old or so that's typically when they started I think for service dogs so Tio was eventually released back to his original trainer, puppy raiser through this organization. And that's how I became familiar with him because ironically, it's funny how the world works he was released back to his original trainer who lives in Wisconsin and the community they live in and was a friend of mine at the time but I did I had no idea that she had this dog in fact she she also was in the process still in the process of having an another dog service dog as well as going off to have more training but so Tio and I connected we started training together, you know, forming a bond and a relationship like you would for for anything, just we became partners. So then we were on to this new journey and he was on this new journey with me, right, so that's how we all started, he was now going to be a facility dog and we partnered up and started Operation K-9 Hero. And that's where it all started. 
So then we from there, started training with the alliance of therapy dogs, which is a very large organization in the United States that it's an international registry actually of certified therapy dogs and therapy teams, they do testing certifications registration, and they support their members that handlers professional handler so Tio and I became certified through them so now he's a certified therapy dog and we're a certified therapy team so we partnered up is that we just like I said, going back to the beginning of this provide a little extra support, you know, and he's great with his temperament and social skills for people with PTSD. He's like awesome, and super smart. And I honestly I honestly truly believe this that people can sense that with him. So that's, that's just what makes all this great. You know, when all we really want to do right is like I talked about pulling through the professional channels like you should. This is just another way even if it's temporary, you know, and a lot of people with PTSD or it'll send them just sometimes they might not feel comfortable. They don't want to go through through channels like that they maybe want something so I'm like, this is the perfect opportunity to take the edge off right. Like I mentioned the conversation starter. 
You know, after after either a call or traumatic event that someone has or maybe they're just even having a bad day, you know, and you know, we go to any firehouse or police station or military base or military organization, or a public place meet for a cup of coffee and, or whatever would be, you know, we I would never turn anyone away. We just we because you don't see this a lot, I just specifically wanted to focus on a little some public safety and military, you know, you see this a lot, maybe hospital settings or nursing homes and stuff like that, but I wanted to do just focus on those in public safety. So just to be a support and be the conversation starter, you know, you're not alone, right? I've kind of come in from I've been in your shoes. And I kind of understand and I think they can sense that with Tio, we all know, and you probably hear about this, and I use this a lot, that not all ones are visible or not. So and that's fine. And you also hear along with that, that in our family, no one fights alone, meaning first responders and military we might talk about brotherhood, we take care of our own, I mentioned that phrase, we were a brotherhood, we take care of our own no one fights alone. Whether it's you, me, you know, firefighter anywhere in the United States, or anywhere in the world, I guess or military or veteran, we just reach out to them and write and they can reach out to us and I think they kind of know we all have that same bond, we're all first responders are connected that way, we just we just are. So no one fights alone. I use that a lot. You know, and our first responders, you know, protect our communities and, you know, military, protect our communities in our country. And they have made and make many sacrifices. And I that's where this all started with me is they make many sacrifices, and you know, what, what could I do to give back and, you know, they service daily basis, how can I serve them? You know, I do with my job, one of my duty, but I wanted to, and, you know, being a firefighter, or first responder, you're even when you're off duty, you still aren't one right. You never be you're never not one, but I wanted to serve them in this way. Yeah. So that's how, that's how this all began. You know, and I'm just doing my small little part, you know, you know, I don't have all the answers. And, you know, it's just, it's a unique thing, I think, in the world that we have been in the last couple of years with all the current events and things that have taken place. And that's it kind of hit me, you know, I'm a, I'm just just passionate about the military, and then people on public safety, and I'm a patriot, and I, our country, I love our country and our flag, and I stand for all those things. And that's where it hit me and I just wanted to do something and give back. So that's, that's where I'm at.

Jerry Lund  
That's, that's a lot to go through. And that's, that's, that's just say a lot about you. And I can see the passion in you wanting to give back and, you know, not just on the job, but off the job too. And it's, it's not an easy process to go through and get a dog for as it's this is not just a commitment for you. This is a commitment for your family too, right?

DuWayne Schwartz  
Right, right. Yeah. Yeah, it is, you know, you know, we all wear many hats and most firefighters, you know, I don't I don't know, And the law enforcement side I'm sure they do, too. But you know, we, we work unique schedule. So we seem to have a lot of days off, right. But people are always like, geez, geez, do you ever work? Yeah. You know, usually we have, you know, our time business. And then I have that as well. But uh, but I think in many ways, a lot of firefighters give back and do things maybe not like this, but similar. And so yeah, I do wear many hats. And I'm not patting myself on the back. Because I'm, I'm not any better than anyone else. And I know a lot of my friends and colleagues, you know, would do the same thing. And a lot of them do things. And I'm just doing my small little part in the world and are in my community and Wisconsin here. And in the in the country, I guess to shed light on this whole thing. And yeah, you know, I said, Let's stick. I'm sorry. Yeah, go ahead. 

Jerry Lund  
Oh, I was just saying how is your family help you out through this, this process having Tio visit you, correct?

DuWayne Schwartz  
No, Tio doesn't live with me so I'm just his professional handler. 

Jerry Lund  
Oh, awesome. 

DuWayne Schwartz  
So he's actually in the community that I live in with, with his owner. And they are puppy raisers for this service dog organization I was talking about and that's where they started with him with you and they also have another service dog that their training that will eventually leave them and go on to somewhere else in the United States to get more formal training it's almost like that kind of reminds me of like foster care you know you're kind of raising them and eventually you know at some point you know they're going to go on somewhere else so they do this with service dogs. It's awesome they're great people and it's great so I basically if something comes up if someone needs us, I just double check with them that it fits with their schedule I pick him up and we go Of course any training that we have him I we just go we trained together it's not training and you know, obviously we'd still need to hang out with bond and he needs to trust me I need to trust him and rely on each other so we do things like that just normal things but so I just go get him as needed basis so and they don't live too far from me too. And it's like I said, it's crazy how the world works, right? Like searching and I felt like Geez, I'm never gonna find the perfect dog and like, all of a sudden, I come across Tio and he's, you know, just across my community so it's awesome.

Jerry Lund 
Very good. Have you have you ever had any personal struggles with PTSD or any of those type of thoughts or feelings?

DuWayne Schwartz 
Yeah, you know? Yeah, I think we all do even if you don't want to admit it, you know the job you see some things that you can't unsee and there's certain things that trigger you as an individual everyone their makeup is different you know and it might be one certain event you know when it could be several over the course of your career. And maybe you could go through the course of your career and only have one traumatic event I don't know everyone's different but yeah, you know with me you know, I have three kids and you know, my goal in life was always to try to be a good dad and a lot of basically everything in my life revolves around my kids and so calls with kids you know that you know, there's a there's several that come to mind that sit with me that I think about you know, often so so yeah, yeah, you know, like anyone else you know, everyone deals with things differently and you know, I tried to think about this and and all the stuff I've been doing and you know me personally I work out I'm a workout fanatic and that's my kind of way that I cope and you know, I have certain things that I do but yeah, so I guess the answers Yeah, yeah, yeah, there's some things you know, there's some things.

Jerry Lund 
yeah, I mean, that's that's okay, right? We're like you said we're all affected by this job in in some way and I think those who maybe go through this job and think they're unaffected it's just I don't know they're just turned on the blind eye to it because I don't see how you can't be unaffected by by this job by the different things that happened to you on and off the job that accumulate stress in your life.

DuWayne Schwartz  
Yeah, I agree. You know, and this profession, firefighter or police officer you need to be you have that certain personality, you can go anywhere across the country, at my firehouse or your firehouse or on the other side of the country we're all the same you need that specific personality you know, obviously you want to help others otherwise why would you gotta get into the job but you need you know, compassion you need to be you need to be sensitive you need to be caring and loving for people and you know all those things so you know, when you have a mind and heart like that, of course things are going to affect you, you know, you're opening yourself up to things and good and good and bad, right? I think more good because you want that type of person and a role because you know, we deal with we're putting in a lot of situations and scenarios where things are bad things can go bad really fast. Things are thrown at you it's not a controlled environment you never know what's going to happen next sometimes it's at the time of when that's going on you're not thinking about yourself mentally because you're doing the job whether you know it's pretty bad structure fire or you're on a medical call you're doing CPR a four month old or something but you know when you have you know, parents or grandparents that are pleading and begging with you and they're hysterica, please do something please help us and you know you have to have that side of you you know where put yourself in their shoes and be compassionate and caring and loving all those kinds of thing so yeah.

Jerry Lund  
Yeah. And it's it's unique. Well maybe not really unique. Just thinking about like I said that I mean, it's a lot of the sad things that are going on in our lives are going on at home and then you have to show up to to work and be loving caring be empathetic and you know just go through your day trying to make other people's days that are having probably the worst day when you meet them you know as best as possible do your best job bring the best you out and it's it's it's hard sometimes to do that it's hard to keep it all together when you do that at times.

DuWayne Schwartz 
Right you know we're only human, right? And that's what I was talking about the stigma you know well firefighters you know you gotta put your feeling aside and you know you're tough mentally and physically well yeah yes or no you know we are human beings you know and we also have things going on in our personal life with family and things like that that go on and and then you know, you watch your colleagues excuse me, you know on TV and social media with all the things that been going on in the world with you know, you hear about you know, police officers such as firefighters such such just took their life and where you know that you had a cop that was shot or things and so you have all these things that are in your mind and and that affects you even when you're not even really thinking about it. Yeah, you know, we're just human and then and then we go to work and then now we're on duty and yeah, we're gonna do our job we're also we're always going to be professional and do our job you know, effectively and efficiently and put our best foot forward and we are going to be there and we're going to get it done no matter what but you know, out of the back of your mind when all this stuff is going on mentally I think it's when you get back to the firehouse or back police station and all of a sudden things you start thinking of things and things run into your head as what affects you the most and then I think when the next day when you're off duty and you come home and you know when it's affecting you and you try to brush it aside and you do maybe for a couple days or maybe it'll come back or maybe you're fine and then another call happens you know and over time things start happening you know you you could start getting depressed and feeling you know emotional and you know a lot of things that we've been talking about PTSD and depression and everything you know and so yeah.

Jerry Lund 
Yeah it's it's an up and down roller coaster for people that are struggling with those things of going to work and coming home and I think as we all know, it's not just everything that happens at the job and it's kind of like the what we've talked about, it's that home life too that adds to that basically that cup that overflows, it's just not everything that happens at work I mean, our home lives are just like other people's home lives you know there's there's plenty of roller coasters ups and downs and stressors and you know, major family events and incidents and things going on and that you know, you like Like I said, try to brush those off and go to work and put your best foot forward every day. But I think those are the some of the times that your cup fills up really fast and you come to that breaking point. And one of the things that we discussed was kind of some of our coping mechanism we're talking about maybe some of the things that we kind of brushed off and maybe like a little bit of a humorous way I think that's just been a coping mechanism for public safety for a long time because maybe we didn't know or want to know or even look to find other ways to find help for ourselves other than maybe just trying to find some humor and things where there's really not a lot of humor. And now we have other avenues to to seek help and you know, like what Wisconsin is helping you pass laws and things for PTSD and I know some other states are slowly getting on board to do those things as well which is which is good because those who are really affected by this job and can't work should be compensated in some manner like this. This is the job that basically I don't know what the proper word is that made them leave this career and have to choose something different.

DuWayne Schwartz  
Right? Yeah, I agree with you 100% on that.

Jerry Lund  
And it's there's so many I think more therapies that are out there and stuff like that. There's different types of you know, I think of traditional therapy where there's just a lot of talking and I don't think very many if any first responders want to go to therapy like that because we're just we don't want to talk about our feelings very much right? At least not. And put in settings like that. And then, you have some EMDR and then now you have ART so those are less talk therapies and you know with you know having a K9 there like you said it's it's an icebreaker just to like lower the tension right. Let the conversation just flow.

DuWayne Schwartz  
Yeah, let it flow. Like you said, you know, conversation starter icebreaker, you know, sometimes it's hard to go and I'm not saying you shouldn't go through those professional channels, because you should. But I'm saying, sometimes, you know, you feel like, and I'm not speaking for everyone else, I'm speaking for myself that maybe, you know, that they just don't understand. They haven't, they haven't been on this roll, they, they, you know. So when you can talk to somebody that kind of has been in your shoes, or maybe consents or feel what you're feeling because they've been there before. I think it's a little easy. Yeah, it's something obviously, anyone that wouldn't hear in a setting that's more relaxed and less formal, you know, it's probably easier to talk and, you know, like, I always say what I'm doing, words aren't even really needed. You know, there doesn't need to be any words expressed if someone wants to open up and talk awesome, because I'll listen, I'm a good listener, but we don't need to talk just, you know, me and Tio coming in and someone just chilling out with us and hanging out with you, or we have just have a cup of coffee, and we don't even really talk about the underlying problem, but I think it's actually helping that individual the problem with, with them, not even knowing it, you know, that's kind of what I envisioned. And you know.

Jerry Lund  
Yeah, do you find yourselves meeting people more than once in the community? Or are you just find yourself kind of bouncing around a little bit?

DuWayne Schwartz 
Yeah, bouncing around a little bit, I've been to different communities. And you know, this is all just kind of getting started. You know, we we've just been new to this, it took me a lot longer to, to do all this research forum, this nonprofit, Operation K9 Hero, and then finally come across Tio. And then of course, we had to do our formal training and become certified. So yeah, we are just finally started to be to be out and we've been in a couple different communities and news crew just did a story on us. So yeah, to get our name out there in our organization out there, and, you know, people can get a hold of us by, you know, people that know me personally, or a friend of a friend, or, you know, we're all kind of at least here, you know, in Northeast Wisconsin and the surrounding communities, you know, the, you know, we're a tight knit group, you know, they they know, that they can reach out to me, or how to get get ahold of me. And like I said, we wouldn't turn turn anyone away. So, yeah, even something as simple as just having a cup of coffee. Someone's off there. But, but yeah, for sure, we just we'd go to a firehouse or police station, or military organization, you know, whatever is convenient for them. And, you know, it doesn't need to be anything long, it could be 15 minutes, you know, we can spend as much time as they wanted, you know, like I said, it could be something as simple as just or a cup of coffee and then, you know, Tio with his with his face on their lap and petting him and you know, the dogs provide that therapeutic connection, especially if you have a trained facility dog therapy dog like Tio that. You know, he can sense if someone's not feeling right, and you know, I think they can sense that Oh, okay, this is a really compassionate dog. And you know, it's just a therapeutic connection. And that and that might not be for everyone. I'm sure it's not something people aren't dog lovers. But you know, this is just one way and of course, this is you know, that even if it's just temporary. Yeah, you know, so yeah.

Jerry Lund  
You said there's also a connection for the dog for Tio so Tio always Tio is getting something out of this connection to with the person they're interacting with to. What's that? What's that like? What would you find in your research?

DuWayne Schwartz  
Yeah, so you know, just different studies that I've read that it that it's just as benefiting for the dog you know, mentally calming I'm sure you know, we can't speak for dogs but you know, but I you know, I never thought about that side of it and that aspect and I mean, how cool is that? You know, I mean you know, I guess like a dog like Tio put him like if he was a human at a like a first responder and the situation like what I'm doing or what we were doing and just wanting to help others? Yeah, you know, that seems to be his personality. Like he's a dog, his temperament and the way that he socialize with people, you could tell that he's super chill, and he wants to be there help others. And that's just that's cool. Yeah. So that Yeah, I feel like and you know, like I said, studies have shown that it's given back to him as well. 

Jerry Lund  
Do you find Tio maybe acting and acting differently with different people he comes in contact like he said, maybe he puts his head on someone's lap or maybe he'll just sit beside someone or you know, different different things like that.

DuWayne Schwartz  
Yeah, definitely I think, you know, a dog like him can sense of someone is stressed or anxious, you know, if someone their leg is constantly shaking or, or maybe they seem timid or something like that, you know, I think in his role when, with his training that he had and his temperament and socializing skills that he can, I think he can sense that. And I think he probably knows himself mentally of maybe he would be back with this specific individual be more outgoing and laughing and stuff, you know, I think, like humans, we would, you know, treat someone, I don't want to say treat something different, but approach them differently if they're more or shy, right, compared to someone that's like, super outgoing. And, you know, so I think he was doing the same thing. 

Jerry Lund  
Yeah, I've just some a little I've had some interactions with the few therapy dogs, and as someone will, like, just want to be up against you, and just putting their body weight on you and kind of just push it on you and then, right, you're like, Oh, I'm going to give in All right, I'll finally just "I'll pet you". And I'll like, interact and so warm.

DuWayne Schwartz  
Yeah, definitely.

Jerry Lund    
How can people help support this mission?

DuWayne Schwartz  
Like I said, so they can find us on our website, at operationk9hero.org. We're on social media on Facebook and Instagram, Operation K9 Hero, you know, or info@operationk9hero.com they can, anyone could message us privately on social media, they can email us, they can message us through our website, we're easy to find. And, you know, if anyone out there that's listening to this, or you, yourself, or you know that you, you can think of someone that might, you know, need a little extra support in our area, they can get ahold of us. And like I said, we would never turn anyone away, we just want to help, we're free. You know, we're just gonna go when you know, we don't cost anything, just we're just volunteering our time to give back. So they can contact us through through that so.

Jerry Lund  
Are you going to grow this mission to like, maybe have other people involved in other states? Is that your goal?

DuWayne Schwartz  
That wasn't my goal. That's not my goal. But after, you know, I got going local news. Local news channel got a story and I started getting emails of people at surrounding communities that also have a therapy dog that that are in public, do some sort of public service that wanted to help out in some way. That's not my intention right now. Maybe down the road growing this? And I mean, what, you know, why wouldn't they want to help others other than someone in Wisconsin? Right? You know, and, and I'm not saying that I won't travel somewhere, if there's someone in public safety or a veteran that someone refers me to, you know, that's in a different state that's really struggling and thinking that maybe I could help, you know, you know, I would I would go I wouldn't turn anyone away. So, yeah, I'm just, I'm just taking this all slow right now and seeing where it goes. And going from there, I guess.

Jerry Lund  
Yeah. Maybe you're creating the format for other people to jump on and, and support, you know, others around around the country. And that's a great thing in itself, too. And I think that's, that's awesome. You would travel anywhere to help other people. But can people make donations?

DuWayne Schwartz    
Yeah, people can go to our website and make a donation, we are a 501C3, so they can make a donation to our organization, you know, and it's a tax write off for them if they want to want to do that. So any donations are welcome. But not needed. You know, I mean, there was some initial startup cost and but that's on me, I, you know, this is my passion, you know, my vision and I'm not really concerned about the financial aspect of it. I just feel like this is me and what I'm driven to do, and I just, I feel like it's just something that I need to do so I'm not worried about money, I guess. I'm just gonna do it. But yeah, donations can be.

Jerry Lund  
Yeah, well, right, those types of things. So they have, you know, what's travel and other expenses and it anything that anybody's doing for free for others. It comes at a cost, you know, to them and I think there's also people out there that want to help others like you, you know, maybe not have such an impactful cost to these types of things. So you can be out there more doing that.

DuWayne Schwartz    
Sure, sure. Yeah, that makes sense. I appreciate that. 

Jerry Lund  
Yeah. So you're, you're on Instagram as and, and you have the website.

DuWayne Schwartz    
Yep. And Facebook at Operation K9 Hero.

Jerry Lund  
Great. Wha email can they reach you out?

DuWayne Schwartz    
It's info@operationk9hero.com.

Jerry Lund  
Okay. We'll also put that in the show notes. Okay, always asked us one last question. What impact Dwayne, do you want to make in the world?

DuWayne Schwartz    
Cool. That's a tough question there, Jerry. You know, I, I, I just I don't know how to answer this, I just want to do my do my own small little part. Like I said, I don't want to take pat myself on the back, take huge credit, you know, cuz I know a lot of there's a lot of amazing people out there that are helping many people that are struggling, even people that aren't struggling, you know, I just, I just honestly think like, just small, little random acts of kindness, doing things for people, even those who don't maybe need a little extra support, that kind of stuff goes a long way. And I don't really know how to answer that I just, I, this, this does, what I'm doing does make me feel good. As a person, makes me feel a little better about myself. But you know, I'm not doing it for for myself. Just, it's just a passion of mine. If I can help even just one person, I feel like I'm doing my part. So I guess that would probably answer your question. 

Jerry Lund  
Yeah, definitely. 

DuWayne Schwartz    
You know, it's, you know, you always hear and it's true that it's small things that make a difference in the world. And, you know, when someone feels like others, I think even more so one of just some random person that you don't know that is caring, and they care about you. And they extend an invitation to help and at least let them know that hey, you know, I understand how you feel and that we're, that you know, I'm here for you. I think that goes a long way. So I always think about that little that that kind of stuff. So just doing my small little part Jerry. 

Jerry Lund  
Yeah. Well, you know, if you inspire other people to do their small little part as well as with you, right, you're making world change right there. So it always starts with one person and maybe there's a person listening it's like, Hey, I could do something like this, too in my area to help people and you know, that's right there right. You've inspired and other people in the house that trickle trickle down effect. That's, that's what I love about having my my guests on the show like you Dwayne that that's what you're doing. You're inspiring others, you're inspiring me. I love that. I appreciate it.

DuWayne Schwartz  
I appreciate that. I really do. Thanks, Jerry.

Jerry Lund  
Yeah. Thank you for being on today.

DuWayne Schwartz  
Yeah, thanks for having me. And thanks for all that you do for our first responders and across the country, and I just, you know, came across you and I respect you too immensely, and just what you're doing shedding light on all the different podcasts, you know, people in EMS player, police and military of what they're going through and you're doing a great thing. So I appreciate you very much.

Jerry Lund  
Thank you. I appreciate that.

Outro  
Thanks again for listening. Don't forget to rate and review the show wherever you access your podcasts. If you know someone that would be great on the show, please get a hold of our host, Jerry Dean Lund through the Instagram handles @jerryfireandfuel, or @enduringthebadgepodcast. Also by visiting the show's website, enduringthebadgepodcast.com for additional methods of contact, and up to date information regarding the show. Remember the views and opinions expressed during the show, solely represent those of our hosts and the current episode's guest.

DuWayne Schwartz

I am with the Professional Firefighters of Wisconsin Local 275, Neenah, WI. I have been there going on 21 years. My rank is a Fire Inspector.

The well-being of our military personnel and veterans, as well as our professionals in public safety has been a passion of mine. With PTSD and suicides on the rise over the last couple of years, I wanted to come up with a way I could give back and volunteer my time. Something different and laid back. Something less formal.

So I did a lot of research on service dogs and how a Facility Dog could benefit these individuals. I did a lot of networking and collaborating with professionals in this area and different organizations. Through that I made some connections and decided the best route would be for me to start a nonprofit organization.

So that’s when a started the process to come up with “Operation K-9 Hero”, a volunteer based nonprofit organization dedicated to our military, veterans, police, fire and paramedics who might need a little extra support through a K9 Therapy Dog. Starting a nonprofit organization and to become a 501.c.3 charity is not an easy task and is time consuming.

I figured a Facility Dog being utilized as a Therapy Dog would be a great conversation started and an ice-breaker to help be there for someone in need.

So I came across “Tio” who was in service dog training as a puppy. Tio and I started training together and he seemed to be the perfect match for me and Operation K-9 Hero and our mission. From there we became a certified Therapy Dog team, and he is now my partner.

This is our journey….helping others through a K9-human partnership.