Mindi’s Story

Rescue dog Mindi was trained to be Caroline’s service dog – until a terrible accident changed everything.

Throughout a 48-year marriage, Caroline and Brad met life’s challenges with courage and joy. They raised two wonderful daughters and taught them to love life and not let a disability define them. Caroline was special – the type of person who deeply touches the lives of those fortunate enough to cross her path. She was always a light in the darkness, a smile, a kind heart, and an ear to listen. She was quick with an encouraging word, too.

As Caroline herself became debilitated by a degenerative joint disease, she embodied the lessons she had taught her girls and remained an engaged, loving, and keen participant in life. Even through the heartbreak of losing their daughters, nine years apart, Caroline and Brad continued to affirm life and love. They honored their daughters’ strength and kept alive the memory of the hugs and the fun that filled the too-short time the family had together.

Caroline’s condition eventually forced her to use an electric wheelchair, and she sought out Extreme K-9 in Carbondale, Il., to pair her with a service dog to allow her to continue living her life with as much freedom as possible.

Mindi, a youthful black Lab from an animal rescue in Murray, Ky., was the dog selected to be Caroline’s helper. Mindi matched Caroline step by step in her joy for life, love of people, indomitable spirit, and intuitive nature. They were destined for many adventures together.

After nearly a year of training, Mindi joined Caroline to help her pick up objects, travel with her, open and close doors and drawers, and push automatic door buttons. Caroline’s piano students loved the young dog who stayed on her bed as they came to greet her.

Sadly, shortly after Mindi was placed with Caroline, a single-car accident on IL-3 ended Caroline’s life.

Saved by a leather seatbelt harness Caroline had strapped her into, but trapped in the overturned minivan for two days in the arctic cold of February, with no food, water, or heat, Mindi survived. Rescuers found her burrowed into a pile of clothing at the back of the vehicle.

The police who found the accident contacted Extreme K-9 to let them know Mindi was alive. Within an hour, the scared dog was back with Extreme K-9’s owner, Behesha Doan. That night, Mindi went home with a trainer who worked for days to reassure her that she was safe again and helped the dog overcome the fear of sounds and fast motion she had developed due to the accident. Police station employees offered to adopt Mindi if she was unable to work as a service dog after the trauma.

Caroline’s husband, Brad, had a far more challenging healing journey ahead of him. Wracked with grief over losing his best friend, soulmate, champion, and life partner, he chose to honor Caroline by funding the full cost of Mindi’s training – so that Mindi could fulfill her purpose in life and help someone else regain their freedom with her training, skills, and devotion.

Extreme K-9 donated Mindi to This Able Veteran. Mindi’s training was fine tuned to prepare her to handle her selected veteran’s special needs. She was taken to a variety of outings, presentations and events so she could learn to provide anxiety alerts and comfort during emotional crises.

Mindi’s journey continued in June 2014, when she was paired with her veteran, Jacob. She and Jacob participated in our Trauma Resiliency program, where they learned to navigate life’s challenges side by side. Jacob’s life was opened as he learned to step outside of the prison of PTSD.

As Caroline learned, this very special dog will be a partner like none other. This sweet girl, Mindi, enables Jacob to learn that life is all about living and not letting a disability define you.