If you haven’t seen Returning the Favor, you’re missing a Facebook series of heartwarming episodes in which Mike Rowe travels the US in search of people giving back to their communities, often surprising them with a means to continue their good work. Not long ago, Rowe made a stop in Woodbridge, VA to learn more about local non-profit, Semper K9.
In 2014, veteran Christopher Baity and his wife, Amanda, founded Semper K9 to help veterans readjust to life post-deployment. After years of working as a K9 handler and struggling with drug and alcohol use himself after returning from his deployment in Afghanistan, Baity wanted to put his advanced dog-training skills to use to help other veterans with the transition. “Trying to find purpose after the transition to civilian life is difficult,” Baity said. “Lack of job security, tumultuous family dynamic and the desire to continue serving weighs heavily on your mind every day.”
The non-profit organization works as a rescue for dogs and as a service dog training team. Once completely trained, those rescue dogs become service animals to disabled veterans at no cost to them. In about four years of operation, the organization has helped over 100 veterans, rescued 20 dogs, and obtained a helpful staff of 125 volunteers.
While Baity didn’t aim to create Semper K9 for fame or recognition, his good work is hard to ignore, and he recently won Washingtonian of the year in 2017 viaThe Washingtonian Magazine, and American Heroes Channel’s Red Bandanna Hero in 2016. Not only did those organizations recognize the work that Baity has done over the years, a community member also took notice and recommended the non-profit for a highlight on Mike Rowe’s most recent show, Returning the Favor.
With all the growth since its inception, Semper K9 was looking to expand into a permanent training facility. After starting what Baity thought was simply an interview for the non-profit, Mike Rowe made his appearance and asked to see the facility they had planned. At this point, the facility was merely a plot of land and some drawn up plans, but Baity was prepared to talk through what they expected to accomplish in the next 6 months. On their way to the site, Baity noticed that what used to be mud and dirt was now a pavilion and outdoor training site lined with tons of veterans, friends, and family there to support Chris and Amanda. Not only were they able to get a head start on their training facility, Returning the Favor also paired up with Nutro to provide a year’s worth of dog food for Semper K9.
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