Arizona veteran, neglected dog find second chancePosted: Updated:
A Valley veteran and a neglected dog both needed a second chance and they found it in each other.
But there was a third person who brought them together: a local high school student who knew he'd be changing lives for the better.
"I went into the service at 17. My mom and dad signed me up," George Rodenmeyer said.
The retired Marine saw too much in Vietnam.
"One of my last flights was bringing a plane load of bodies back to the headquarters," Rodenmeyer said.
He could have been one of those Marines in body bags.
"As I'm running back to my bunk to get my rifle and everything, right past me I heard shrapnel. If I was another six inches to the right, it would've caught me," Rodenmeyer said.
He would go on to spend 18 years serving our country. That service came with a price.
Now at 73, Rodenmeyer needs a little help getting around.
"If you noticed when I came in, I'm walking with a cane. I should be in a walker, but I don't like it," Rodenmeyer said.
He found a shoulder to lean on in Porter.
"Just a good friend. Real good friend. He's a wing man," Rodenmeyer said.
Porter will be the one who helps Rodenmeyer get his keys, get dressed and catch him when he falls.
"He is going to be my support dog," Rodenmeyer said.
Porter once needed some support. The Labradoodle was part of a cruelty case that made the news two years ago. Mangy and drained from ticks and fleas, Maricopa County Sheriff's deputies rescued him from a bad breeder when he was just a puppy. The sheriff's office nursed Porter back to health and that's when the Foundation for Service Dog Support gave Porter his second chance.
"This program is a program that takes high school students and teaches them how to train service dogs," said Sally Cebulski from the Foundation for Service Dog Support.
Porter was put in a class of service dogs in training and paired with a selfless high school student.
Porter's student teacher is Laura Sullivan.
"He has definitely changed my life by teaching me patience and confidence and leadership and helping others," Sullivan said.
Over the course of the past 18 months, Sullivan had the challenge of taking a dog with a lot of special needs.
"He was very timid and shy when he was a puppy. We had to get him over lots of fears of things" Sullivan said.
And she's teaching him how to meet the needs of others.
"I saw it as a once in a lifetime opportunity. I thought, if I can do this, I can help change someone else's life for the better," Sullivan said.
Rodenmeyer will get his service companion for free, as a "thank you" for his service.
"I am elated that the time has come for me to take the dog," Rodenmeyer said.
Rodenmeyer and Porter are both in need of a little help and healing, finding it in each other.
"It made me realize that I am important," said the Marine who gave so much for our country.
He's happy to now take his new four-legged helper home.