Written By: Will Ripley, KUSA
COLORADO SPRINGS - Karl Hofle served his country for nearly two decades and came home with crippling mental health problems.
When medicine failed, Hofle says his service dog, Jake, saved his life. Now, Jake's life is in danger.
"He's part of the family. We love this dog," Karl and Sharon Hofle said.
The Hofle's say Jake has brought joy to them and their 7-year-old granddaughter, Faith, who they're raising as their own daughter.
They consider Jake their son.
"He's such an awesome dog," Sharon Hofle said.
Jake is a dog that came into their lives at a critical time.
"Things were very crazy after my husband got out of the military," she said.
Sgt. Hofle was medically discharged unexpectedly in January.
"I did about 20 years," Karl Hofle said. "Half Air Force, half Army."
The trauma from three deployments made it nearly impossible for Hofle to function.
"[I had] severe anxiety, severe depression, PTSD. I try to forget," he said. "It started back in Desert Storm. And then went to Enduring Freedom and then Iraqi Freedom. They are just, they're bad."
Things went from bad to worse at home.
"Having my husband come back from war and be a different person," Sharon said. "He wasn't the same person. He wasn't the same person that I fell in love with."
No medication or counseling could help, so Sharon wrote to Southern Sollars, a private breeder in New Mexico who donates service dogs to people in need.
Along came Jake, a 10-month old Airedale Terrier.
"It was like a new beginning," she said. "This dog really helped [Karl] cope. Jake brought the joy back in our lives. We really needed that."
Jake's full name is Sergeant Andy Perkins. He's named for a Northglenn solider who died in Iraq in 2007, one of six killed in a roadside bombing.
Sgt. Perkins' legacy lives on though the dog.
"He saved our marriage. Brought us together as a family," Sharon said.
A few months back, they noticed something was wrong with Jake.
"He cries a lot. At home he even cries more. He's in such discomfort," she said.
Even sitting down is painful. Veterinary X-rays confirm the worst.
"Severe hip dysplasia," Karl said. "They were talking about either putting him down or getting his hips replaced, which we really can't afford at this time."
Paying for the $10,000 surgery is not an option.
"Our savings has disappeared just to survive," Karl said.
Karl's been looking for a job since January.
"He has sent out hundreds and hundreds of applications and still hasn't found a position," Sharon said.
Sharon is recovering from her own medical crisis.
"I had a stroke," she said. "I had to learn how to walk all over again."
Even 7-year-old Faith may need major scoliosis surgery.
So the family, always so proud, so independent, finds themselves saying words they never imagined they'd say.
"I do need help. My family needs help," she said.
And most of all, they say, Jake needs help. For the fast growing puppy, with a crippling hip condition, time is running out.
"What a horrible decision to be making," she said.
The Hofle's can't imagine saying goodbye to their son, so soon.
"It would, it would kill me. It would," Karl said. "He's a puppy. He's helpless. I'm tired of pain."
As Jake's pain grows worse, each night the Hofle family prays.
"We love this dog. We cry with this dog," Sharon Hofle said.
With each tear comes determination, to keep their family together.
There is an account setup at Wells Fargo to help with Jake's mounting vet bills, which have added up to more than $500 so far.
To make a donation, go to any Wells Fargo branch and mention that it is a Business Account for SGT ANDY PERKINS aka JAKE, and that the last four digits of the account are 6390.
There is also a PayPal account set up so people can donate to the family: http://bit.ly/QXJI6A.