Nonprofit raising money for service dog for paralyzed Sleepy Hollow veteran

Group raising funds to secure service dog for Sleepy Hollow man

  • Odin, a service dog, licks the face of Max Gross of Sleepy Hollow, an Army veteran paralyzed from the neck down. Odin was visiting Gross with members of Rescue 22 Foundation, a nonprofit that plans to train a service dog for him.

    Odin, a service dog, licks the face of Max Gross of Sleepy Hollow, an Army veteran paralyzed from the neck down. Odin was visiting Gross with members of Rescue 22 Foundation, a nonprofit that plans to train a service dog for him. John Starks | Staff Photographer

  • Max Gross was in the U.S. Army in 2016 when he was paralyzed from the neck down in a car accident while on leave to visit his family in Elgin. He now lives in Sleepy Hollow. With him are Angela Connor, John Devine and Erick Ennis, along with service dog Odin, all from Rescue 22 Foundation.

    Max Gross was in the U.S. Army in 2016 when he was paralyzed from the neck down in a car accident while on leave to visit his family in Elgin. He now lives in Sleepy Hollow. With him are Angela Connor, John Devine and Erick Ennis, along with service dog Odin, all from Rescue 22 Foundation. John Starks | Staff Photographer

  • Max Gross of Sleepy Hollow hangs out with Odin, a service dog, and Erick Ennis of the nonprofit Rescue 22 Foundation, which plans to train a service dog for Max.

    Max Gross of Sleepy Hollow hangs out with Odin, a service dog, and Erick Ennis of the nonprofit Rescue 22 Foundation, which plans to train a service dog for Max. John Starks | Staff Photographer

 
 
Posted12/27/2018 5:23 AM

Max Gross sleeps fitfully, unable to get a good night's sleep, because he worries the machine that helps him breathe will malfunction without anyone noticing.

The 22-year-old U.S. Army veteran, who lives in Sleepy Hollow and is paralyzed from the neck down, is looking forward to getting a service dog trained to sound the alarm if that happens. Max hopes it will give him peace of mind.

 

"I can't wait," said Gross, who was injured in a car crash in 2016. "The dog is going to help me with a lot of things."

Gross' mother, Wendy Gross of West Dundee, said she, too, can't wait for the service dog to arrive. "I think it will be really good for him."

Max's dog will be trained by the nonprofit Rescue 22 Foundation, which pairs rescued working dogs with military veterans, and occasionally active members of the military.

The nonprofit raises money and provides service dogs, companion dogs and emotional support dogs at no cost to clients, said Rescue 22 Vice President Angela Connor.

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The nonprofit, based in Florida, has placed 10 service dogs and six dogs for companionship or emotional support since April, when it was awarded federal 501(c)3 status, Connor said. It has five dogs in training with 12 people on a waiting list, plus some applications pending, she said.

Connor said it takes $22,000 on average to train a service dog, typically a Belgian Malinois, German shepherd or Belgian shepherd.

However, Gross' condition is particularly complex and it will cost more than $30,000 to train his dog, a process expected to take about a year, Connor said.

The group so far has raised nearly $12,000 for Max.

Rescue 22 trainer John Devine -- who visited Gross last month with Connor and another trainer -- said the dog will be able to call 911 if his ventilator stops working, bring Gross objects such as his mouth stylus pen, and alert him if someone is in the house.

"It's kind of going to be six or seven dogs in one," Devine said.

Gross, who lived with his father in Elgin after the accident, moved in July into his own home in Sleepy Hollow.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

His attorney, Nicholas Cronauer, explained Gross gets a military pension and Social Security disability payments and bought the home with a 40-year Veterans Affairs loan.

Gross is exempt from paying property taxes because of his disability, Cronauer said.

Gross has someone by his side 24 hours a day -- including a skilled caregiver like a registered or practical nurse for eight hours, and another caregiver providing so-called "unskilled care" the rest of the time, including overnight.

If that person falls asleep, "it's very stressful for him," Cronauer said.

Gross said he found out about the Rescue 22 Foundation from the wife of Lt. Col. Kurt Smith, his former battalion commander.

Smith and Gross talk about once a week.

"He was a soldier that stood out as one of my better ones," Smith said. "He inspires me with his will to live and thrive."

Gross said he's gone through a lot of ups and downs since the accident and this year resolved to live his life as fully as he can.

A service dog will help him do that even more, he said.

"When you get to a wall you don't stop," Gross said. "You break through it."

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