How we got here
Long before our News21 team met our friendly neighborhood herd of goats, won the Curlew Barrel Derby three-on-three championship or commenced our twice-weekly trips to the Walmart in Omak, our only connection to the veterans in eastern Washington was on the telephone with Rick Francis of the Blackdog Foundation. It’s through him and the outreach work he does that we came to this particular corner of the world.
Rick is a Vietnam vet who entered the military because he didn’t have anything better to do and left with a serious chip on his shoulder. After several post-war years of hell-raising, he met his wife, Becky, in Hawaii and moved to Ferry County, Washington, where he built a home for his family with his own two hands. His daughters walked two miles down a logging trail to the bus stop and his house became an impromptu gathering spot for veterans in need of food, shelter or conversation.
Rick dug into pressing local issues like domestic abuse and meth addictions, both of which were rampant in and around Republic. The Blackdog Foundation got its name from the black dobermans and rotweilers Rick brought with him to confront abusive spouses.
Fast-forward to 2010. Blackdog Foundation and Rick are now in Olympia, the state capital, and are still working to serve veterans daunted by the VA and what Rick calls their “clipboard bullshit.” In the last several months, Rick has been making plans to expand Blackdog across the state and beyond, and he’s recruited a slew of enthusiastic supporters to spread the gospel.
Most importantly for the Syracuse group, though, Rick has been unfailingly generous with his time and energy in scrounging up sources and driving across the state to meet with us. Literally all of our sources and stories can be tracked back to his help. There will surely be more about him and his work on this website in the future.