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The passing of Father Frank Cimarrusti is where our story begins. I was invited to Dave Cimarrusti’s house in Lake Bluff, IL. Dave invited me to come and say goodbye to Father Frank (his Brother) who was near death. I did find it odd that out of all his friends he called me. I made the 52 mile journey in 3 hours and arrived before Father Frank made his final journey to heaven. As I sat there with Father talking to him and telling him to say hi to my mom and others. I knew even though father Frank was unconscious, he could hear me. I also told him about me and my husband Vic going back into the Dog business. Father Frank and I talked about dogs every time we practically saw each other. At one point Father Frank did something called surrogate training, where our thoughts could become energy that our dogs pick up on. We laughed when he did it for me and Vic, at which time we were having trouble with our shepherd and our lab fighting for dominance.
After leaving Dave and Marion’s house, I felt so sad that Father Frank was dying so young. Father Frank took his last breath about an hour after I left. About a month after his funeral his brother Dave called me and said his American Legion Post 510 would like to sponsor my first PTSD service dog: this was April 2011. I said Dave we are in the process of starting a new business and I don’t have time to do that now! He wouldn’t except no for an answer and by the end of April I received the first donation. “Father Frank worked fast”.
I placed the check in a drawer and every time I saw it I would go on the computer and make some calls to lab breeders hoping for one to donate a dog. After six months of looking I found a breeder “Anthem Labradors” to donate a 2 yr old black Lab. I picked him up October 20th 2011. He could not walk up and down stairs let alone sit still for 5 minutes. Both Vic and I thought what have we done. Well we named him Frank and decided to try him out. In about one week we saw so much progress that we cashed the check and took him to the veterinarian for all his shots and neutering.
It was about this time that I received an email from someone at the V.A. North Chicago about a Veteran who was looking for a service dog and qualified for the program. Just before Christmas 2011 I asked this veteran if he had his choice what breed of dog would he have wanted, he said a German Shepherd. I thought about what he said and went to the breeder we got our dog from since we had a great Shepard. I wanted to buy him already trained and then we would enhance his training with the additional service tasks needed to be a service dog. We raised enough money outside of our parish on Sunday to buy him trained dog.
Remember this was a one time thing. Now we still had Frank our Black Lab and he was so awesome we wanted to keep him ourselves. The next day we got a call from another Veteran. He came, met us and Frank which we did not let me know was available. When Chris and Frank met for the first time, they bonded instantly. After a month Chris took Frank home with him and that was January 2012. Chris renamed “Frank” “Buster” and I mentioned this to Dave, Father Franks Brother, and he seemed upset that he was not going to keep the name Frank. He asked what he was going to name him and I said, “Buster”. I thought he was upset about the name change, since this all started because of his brother. Dave called me back a few hours later and said he had to tell me something. Dave said that when he and Father Frank were little boys they would ride in the car with their mother and if anyone came close to the car she would say, “Watch out Buster”. I nearly fell off my chair. I knew Father Frank was doing all of this. He always did this surrogate thought thing and now was able to do it from heaven.
At one point someone bought Father Frank a stuffed Labrador and he named it “Buster” He had this stuffed dog until he died. At this point we saw a great need for trained dogs and the turning point came when the “Ladies of Harley’s” picked us for a donation in their poker run. We had to hurry the thoughts and move on getting this organization moving forward. We hired a lawyer to file our application for a 501C3 Non-Profit organization on March 2012. The day before Father Franks 2nd anniversary of his death we received our declaration stating some minor items needed to be sent back to finalize our application. On May 14th 2013 we officially became a Non-Profit Organization. Strangely enough this is the Feast Day of St. Matthias and also where many years before I meet Father Frank and where Vic and I were married in 2000. I want to thank God and Father Frank and all people who saw to it that PAWWS Assisting Wounded Warriors organization would blossom into an organization that Veterans can come to learn and be a part of one of the best Service dog programs in the country. My hope is to train as many veterans as possible to five them the knowledge needed and provide them with a service dog.
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