Linda Bobot is a certified personal dog trainer. For more than 20 years, Linda’s calm approach has worked wonders. Cheldon Payton and his dog Solo are her students, “She knows a lot about training. She’s taught me a lot, giving me things to teach the dog.” Her program is called H.A.V.E.N. – Hounds and Vets Empowered Now. HAVEN serves veterans deployed to combat zones and those with service-connected disabilities. Linda seems to have an understanding with dogs and their veterans, “Anytime I’m with the veterans in the training class, I’ll say, I don’t walk your walk. The person who left home when they enlisted isn’t the person who came back. I think that’s a real struggle.”
These dogs become their buddies as they battle back into everyday life. As a Marine Erik Smith saw two tours of duty in Iraq, “Coming back to normal life is difficult because it’s so different…and it can be pretty stressful making that transition.” Today Erik’s dog Copper provides him a sense of safety. The same is true for Cheldon Payton who was medically discharged. “Every morning when I wake up, I have someone there to spend the day with. It’s motivating for me. It gives me something to do.”
Motivation starts at the Wisconsin Humane Society in Milwaukee where if vets don’t already have a dog, it’s their first stop. As Linda will tell you, “The dog has a story. The vet has a story and maybe there’s some connection there. I think that opens up something here that they might’ve thought was not there anymore. For Linda helping veterans is a sense of responsibility. A sense of duty to her brother. With emotion in her voice Linda explains, “When my brother was 22, and in the Navy, he committed suicide. So, I can relate to that and the effect that has on families.”
That was 45 years ago. Linda trains those who serve our country and their service dogs in her brother’s honor… but she’s not alone. She finds inspiration in a song, I was walking my dogs, listening to the radio, thinking of my brother. The song came on. If I was stuck, stumped, you know, struggling with something, I get in my car the song would come on.” The song is called “Precious Moments” by the Three Degrees. “So, I started thinking, okay, is this in my imagination? So, I looked it up and it was released three months before my brother died on my birthday. The first words are ‘When will I see you again.’ And that’s why I always tied it into my brother. Cause that’s your thought. When you lose somebody, when will I see you again?”
Linda sees the song as a signal from her brother to keep going, to keep helping his fellow veterans for free.