This is the story of one dog, who began his life in a shelter, and ended his life with hundreds, if not thousands, impacted by the beautiful legacy he leaves behind.
This is for you, Bubba.
Bubba's journey with owner, Chris Kreiger, began back in 2012 when Chris took his sons to the local SPCA to look for a dog.
"After returning from duty, my kids said, 'Dad, you seem different. I didn't want to believe it, but I knew I felt it inside," says Chris.
Chris served his country for decades, completing tours in Bosnia, at Ground Zero after the 9/11 attacks, and overseas in Iraq. He witnessed, and personally experienced, the horrific reality of war and human cruelty.
After returning from his final tour, Chris founded WNY Heroes - a nonprofit committed to providing financial assistance and consistent support and friendship to veterans and their families, who are in need.
"My sons found Bubba - he was a puppy - and he saved me," says Chris. "Truly, he saved us all."
Chris' friends realized how Bubba impacted him, so they put them both in a school for necessary training. That's when they learned to work as a team and Bubba was Chris' right hand ever since.
One year later, Chris started the "Pawsitive for Heroes" program, an umbrella of WNY Heroes. Pawsitive matches up dogs and veterans, and pays for service dog training to help veterans dealing with PTSD or post war injuries. Often times, Chris says that WNY Heroes utilizes rescue / shelter dogs, just like Bubba.
"You have service dogs for the blind, and ones trained for seizures or diabetes. We use our dogs for veterans returning from war, and the dogs help with depression and anxiety. When a veteran is overstimulated, the dog senses it and helps bring it down."
In total, the "Pawsitive for Heroes" program has impacted 40 veterans, so far, with four currently on the waiting list.
"We do not receive state or federal funding, so donations and fundraisers allow us to continue our important work."
On April 7, 2019, Bubba's life unexpectedly came to an end. Chris says he knew things were not right when Bubba refused to eat, and the vet revealed that Bubba had liver failure due to cancer.
Chris, and Chris' fiancee, Lynn, knew Bubba's time had come to an end. He was 8-years-old.
"It was hard. They become a member of the family. I got on the floor with him and I held him in his final moments. We always had this thing where we locked eyes. He watched my every move, I watched his every move. When I got on the floor with him in that moment, he knew."
Chris tells Hope Rises that he had Bubba cremated and plans to keep him close to his side, forever.
"He will remain with me until it's my time to go, and we will then be next to each other."
Rest in peace, hero Bubba.
If you wish to make a gift in Bubba's name to support WNY Heroes, and "Pawsitive for Heroes", please click here. Each service dog sponsorship is, on average, $5,000.