6,000 Mile Journey for a Cause

Cross country trek raises money and awareness for veterans and their dogs.
By JoAnna Lou, May 2015, Updated July 2016

When Dan Spangler returned home injured from Iraq, he faced a long, painful recovery. Fortunately, Dan adopted Spanky, a Norwegian Duck Tolling-Retriever mix and the two quickly became inseparable. There were dark times, but Dan credits Spanky with pulling him through and being a constant loyal companion.

Veterans struggling to adapt to civilian life can have a hard time supporting themselves, let alone a pet. Inspired by his relationship with Spanky, Dan decided to create a charity to help veterans needing financial assistance to care for their dogs. Many would otherwise have to give up their precious pets.

When Joe Trainor Jr. heard about Dan's mission, he was determined to join the cause. As an Army Ranger, Joe sustained brain injuries in Afghanistan and is now going blind. Returning home with post-traumatic stress disorder, Joe fell into a deep depression until he found CT, a Pitbull-Bulldog mix. Like Dan, Joe credits the pup with saving his life.

Now the two veterans and their dogs are on a 6,000-plus-mile journey from Camp Lejeune in North Carolina to Camp Pendleton in California to raise awareness of the impact dogs can have on veterans, and to raise money for Dan's charity. The mission is called Operation: Keep Your Spanky and can be followed on Facebook or Twitter.

There are a number of ways you can support their journey. Tax deductible donations are being accepted as a per-mile pledge or flat-fee. If you're along their route, Dan and Joe would love to share a meal or part of their walk with their followers.  

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JoAnna Lou is a New York City-based researcher, writer and agility enthusiast.