Wisconsin veteran helps other vets through therapy animals

Posted at 10:41 AM, May 23, 2017
and last updated 2017-05-23 11:41:05-04

When you drive up to Moo-Lon Labe Home for Veterans in White Lake, Wisconsin, it feels like an escape from reality.

And that's exactly what it's supposed to be for the veterans who visit.

On this beautiful Monday morning, the sun is peeking in and out of the clouds as a half dozen horses graze on rolling hills. A group of German Shepherd puppies is excitedly running around, chasing the heels of Moo-Lon Labe's founder, Karl Klimes.

The horses and puppies are main components of his charity, which aims to help veterans through equine therapy and service dogs.

"Animals can truly save lives for veterans," Klimes explains. 

Klimes knows this firsthand. Upon leaving the Marine Corps, he suffered from PTSD and struggled to adjust back to life out of the military.

But after visiting his father on his farm in White Lake, Klimes found a new calling.

Now, Klimes breeds service dogs and donates them to veterans across the country for free. In June, two of the dogs will go to veterans in Texas and Georgia.

"I see the love in their hearts that I felt when I first found my dog," Klimes explained.

Some of the dogs stay right in Northeast Wisconsin. Brian Russow, a fellow Marine Corps veteran from Clintonville, visited Monday to pick out his new service dog.

"I know having a service dog means a lot to me and my family because that means we can actually go places and I will feel comfortable being there," said Russow. "A service dog brings me back to reality, it calms me down."

Brian with his new service dog, Gemma.

Russow spent nine years in the Marine Corps and was part of the original push to Baghdad during Operation Iraqi Freedom. However, his time overseas took a toll.

"When I first got out, I was lost," said Russow. "I had nowhere to turn."

That's the goal of Klimes' charity - to help other veterans who feel that way upon returning home, he said. The suicide rate amongst veterans his too high, Klimes explained.

"There are too many good men and women out there that are taking their own lives because of trauma endured overseas," Klimes said. "22 a day is something we will never stand for with my charity. We will never stand for it until it's down to 0 a day." 

Through equine therapy and donating free service dogs, Klimes said he hopes these animals will give other veterans a sense of purpose like they gave him.

"I feel just like when I was back in the military waking up at 0400 to go do something, because these animals have saved my life," he said. "I haven't saved their lives, they've saved mine."

In addition to being service dogs, one of the puppies will also be trained as a narcotics dog and donated to a law enforcement agency in Wisconsin.

Klimes is also planning to build housing for veterans on his land so they can stay there as they get back on their feet. His initial goal is to build a home big enough to house four veterans, but he wants to help as many as possible.

In order to build the housing, Klimes is asking for donations to his GoFundMe page. You can donate by clicking here.

Klimes still has two puppies that are available for veterans. If you or someone you know is interested, visit his Facebook page here.