Some days are harder than others for U.S. Army veteran and Clackamas County, Ore., resident Luke Hunt. At first, after Hunt was hit by a friendly-fire bomb during a 2010 20-hour firefight in Afghanistan, the former 101st Airborne Division Army medic didn’t notice how badly he’d been injured. But as time went on, Hunt realized he frequently felt lost, disoriented, and confused.
“I didn’t start seeing those issues until I got back,” Hunt explains. “Until there was more than just a horn blowing telling you when to eat breakfast, lunch and dinner.”
For his bravery and service, Hunt was awarded the Purple Heart. But as his condition worsened, the wounded warrior’s problems started to pile up. Hunt has issues with memory, and kept forgetting to pay his bills. A divorce left the cash-strapped veteran with abysmal credit, and his car was repossessed. Heat and stress cause Hunt to black out, and the once-excellent speaker now struggles to find the right words.
“It’s hard. He’s not the same,” says Hunt’s father, Don. “It’s the hardest thing I’ve ever had to deal with. He was fine before — sharp as a tack. Smartest kid I ever met.”
“It’s weird to say this and I know my family understands this when I say this…but she can’t talk back, and she just lays there and listens to me,” Hunt tells KATU of Pepper. “I have more conversations with the things that I struggle with. Any nightmares I have, I wake up to her. She knows when I’m having a nightmare — I open my eyes and she’s licking my face.”
But last Tuesday, Hunt went outside to find his best friend Pepper covered in blood. The loyal Pointer had been shot in the leg.
“She came down from where she was shot and then as soon as she saw me she just laid down because she knew that I would take care of her,” Hunt remembers.
Hunt called for Don and the two men rushed Pepper to the VCA Northwest Veterinary Specialists for emergency treatment. Dr. Steve Petersen, the staff surgeon who worked on Pepper that day, had good news for Hunt and his dad — Pepper’s gunshot wound was not fatal. But the cost to save Pepper’s leg would cost $7,000, money neither Hunt nor Don had in their bank accounts.
That’s when Craig Murphy, a friend of the Hunt family, set up a fundraising page on GoFundMe.com, hoping to raise enough money to help cover Pepper’s vet bill. Within hours, money for Luke Hunt and Pepper started pouring in from generous donors all over the country. On Thursday night, an anonymous donor contributed a whopping $6,000 to Pepper’s fund. The cost of Pepper’s surgery was covered, but the kindness didn’t stop there. As of Monday morning, more than $14,500 had been collected for the veteran and his beloved dog.
“I just wanted to send a sincere thank you to all who have helped with this cause,” Murphy posted on the fundraising page. “Luke and Pepper appreciate all the love that is being shown.”
Pepper’s Friday surgery went smoothly, and she was able to come home with Hunt over the weekend, where she will spend the next 16 weeks taking it easy and healing up.
“That is all thanks to you wonderful human beings,” Hunt writes on the Go Fund Me page. “I can’t believe how many of you came to my aid when I needed you the most. Or rather when Pepper needed you most.”
Police are still looking for the person or persons responsible for shooting Pepper. Anyone with information on the culprit is asked to contact the Clackamas County Sheriff’s Office immediately.
“There’s people that are just so cruel and emotionless and devoid of all things that make people that would do something like this to a dog,” Luke says of the unknown person responsible for Pepper’s brush with death. “It’s just hard to deal with. If anything happened to this dog I don’t know what I’d do.”
If you’d like to keep track of Pepper’s progress as she continues to recover, check out the Luke Hunt Pepper Fund Facebook page.