As host of the nationally syndicated radio program “The Bobby Bones Show,” Arkansas native Bobby Bones is one of the most popular names in the music industry. The show has won three ACM Awards for National On-Air Personality of the Year, and the 39-year-old recently earned the honor of being the youngest inductee into the National Radio Hall of Fame. A two-time New York Times No. 1 best-selling author and stand-up comedian, he won Season 27 of ABC’s “Dancing with the Stars.”
An avid philanthropist, Bones raises millions of dollars each year for causes that include veteran initiatives and St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. For National Service Dog Awareness Month in September, Bones partnered with Purina Dog Chow for the pet company’s Service Dog Salute campaign.
“[‘The Bobby Bones Show’] has bought nine service dogs for different members of the military, so it was natural for me to slide in and be a part of [the Service Dog Salute program],” Bones said.
According to the National Institute of Health, up to 30% of American military veterans experience post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) after returning home from combat — yet only 40% of those individuals ever seek help.
In an effort to ensure any veterans suffering from PTSD or other challenges know the life-changing benefits that service dogs provide, Purina Dog Chow and Bones want to raise awareness of the benefits that these animals can offer military veterans.
“I had some issues, and I was diagnosed with PTSD after being jumped and receiving death threats,” Bones said. “My friends told me, ‘You should really get a dog.’ Just having a dog made a big change for me, and once I saw how it changed my life, to have something to care about, I learned how service dogs benefit members of the military.”
Dusty, the dog that Bones spoke of, became his longtime companion and also became one of the radio host’s closest friends. Sadly, Dusty passed away in March 2018 at the age of 14.
“I’ve always known that dogs have the ability to impact lives, but understanding the impact service dogs have on veterans truly blew me away,” he continued. “I’m a proud supporter of the men and women who have risked their lives for our country and am honored to be part of a program that helps connect them to organizations to find the help they need when they come home.”
A service dog can offer countless benefits for many veterans, Fuller explained to Bones, including the vital assistance needed for combatting the symptoms of PTSD and rebuilding families after the veterans return home from serving their country.
“[PTSD] is just terrifying,” Fuller said. “You constantly have a sense that something bad is always going to happen. Having the service dog there, it’s such a big comfort. I don’t have that anxiety anymore. And I was so bad, I didn’t want to leave the house or go anywhere that had a crowd. It was affecting my family, where my little girls were missing out on life because their dad, who’s this Marine and who had done all this crazy stuff, now can’t go to the movies or Costco, just regular things. With Katie, I can do those things now. It means a lot for me, and it means a lot for me as a Dad to be there for my girls like I really want to.”
Fuller went on to describe the amazing bond and unconditional love that he receives from Katie.
“That thing you miss when you get out of the military is that close friendship, that unspoken, nonverbal communication that you have with someone else,” he said of the connection that he has found with Katie. “When we’re walking down the street, she’s always checking in with me and looking back at me. She’s making sure I’m OK, and knowing that she’s there is really great.”
For every purchase of specially marked bags of Dog Chow Complete Adult through November 1, Dog Chow will make a donation — up to $100,000 — to Tony La Russa’s Animal Rescue Fund (ARF) and the Pets and Vets program. ARF matches veterans experiencing PTSD and other challenges with rescue dogs, who then complete a 10-month training program where the veterans train their dogs to become their personal service companions.
Founded in 1991, ARF is an award-winning organization that has rescued more than 41,000 dogs and cats while being nationally recognized for its mission of “People Rescuing Animals… Animals Rescuing People.”
“We know that many of our veterans are suffering, and that even our country’s bravest heroes need heroes of their own,” said Kristen Aldenderfer, senior brand manager for Purina Dog Chow. “For many veterans, that hero is a dog. At Dog Chow, we believe in this unique bond, and we are on a mission to raise awareness of the impact a service dog can have on veterans and those that love them. The donations from this year’s program will go toward the expansion of ARF’s veteran program, ensuring more veterans can get the help they need.”
Fuller didn’t hide the fact that he appreciates the support from ARF and Purina Dog Chow.
“Fortunately for me, the fact that I get free dog food for Katie’s whole life, it’s such a huge thing,” he said. “For myself and a lot of the veterans who can be referred to the program, we don’t have money, we’re just coming home from Afghanistan, Iraq or the Philippines, we’ve got severe PTSD and life is really unstable. And so getting that free dog food is so important — without that, this wouldn’t be possible.”
Bones had one final message for those individuals who can benefit the most from Service Dog Salute: “If you know a veteran who doesn’t know about service dogs or the program, have them go to www.dogchow.com/service.”