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Service dog organization prepares to close

By Shannon Ballard 6:11 PM January 9, 2014

Midnight Sun Service Dogs may soon shut its doors

ANCHORAGE - Tyson Bubnar is a dog person and has special bond with his yellow lab.

“She just opened up the world to me,” Bubnar said.

Sesi is his service dog.

“When I first got her I was denying that I even had issues of PTSD and stuff,” Bubnar said. “I went on that last deployment to Afghanistan and I had a really hard time.”

Bubnar was in the Army for 22 years and deployed nine times.

It’s not hard for him to remember life before Sesi.

“I know what it was like without her,” Bubnar said. ”It was miserable.”

It was April Merchant at Midnight Sun Service Dogs who helped Bubnar train Sesi to become a service dog and overcome his struggles.

Now, the tables have turned. It’s hard for him to see what April is going through.

She is packing up the organization’s training center and preparing for the worst, because MSSD is out of money.

MSSD has been waiting for months to receive its nonprofit status to be approved by the federal government, Merchant said.

Without that recognition, she said, MSSD is overlooked by donators and can’t qualify for grants or programs like Pick.Click.Give.

“They’ve sacrificed everything,” Merchant said about the soldiers and veterans she helps. “For me to give my time to help train a dog is nothing compared to what they’ve given. To not be able to do that now, it breaks my heart.”

MSSD relies on donations.

Rent is due and without raising $10,000 to pay off back rent by the end of the month, the doors will close.

“As a fellow veteran watching your other friends possibly not have the access to this, it’s sad because this can change their life and it can return them to an almost normal life,” Bubnar said.

Volunteers here have a saying: Every once in a while dog enters your life and changes everything.

Lives have been changed by MSSD, veterans said, and April hopes the work continues.

The organization said if it does have to shut down its training center, it would still continue to help people with their service dogs on a smaller scale.

Any money raised short of its goal will still be used to provide service dogs to active duty military members and veterans.

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