Marriage is not always easy. Raising children is never easy. The same is to be said about creating and building a business – any business, but maybe especially a non-profit. For most couples, blending lives and raising a family would be challenging enough. Maybe they get a dog or two to toss in the mix. But for the Baity’s that’s child’s play.
Chris and Amanda Baity are among the portion of society that does not fit into that conventional mold. Instead, they thrive on the pursuit of potential and celebrate the journey as much as the success; because they build success into the journey.
Always Faithful. Semper Fi. In sickness and in health, through pregnancies, puppy poop, and public assistance, Chris Baity has remained faithful to his mission and his family. His wife Amanda calls Chris her best friend – even though she didn’t like him all that much at first.
Amanda Baity laughs now as she shares their story of Semper k9
They met in high school. They were both in the JROTC, which Amanda laughingly describes as a tight-knit but dysfunctional family. Chris’s tendencies to talk a lot and insist he is always right irked Amanda, and she did her best to minimize the amount of time in his presence. But when she received a message from their high school JROTC instructor that her former fellow JROTC member could use some encouraging messages while deployed, Amanda answered the call.
Chris still talks a lot and he still likes to be right, says Amanda, but her smile gives her away. She’s smitten with her best friend and partner in life and work, even if he occasionally annoys her.
Nothing about her life with Chris fits into any mold. She was pregnant when they decided to get married. Their wedding was more of a party than a formal event. She walked on the beach toward her groom, surrounded by friends as well as strangers enjoying the day. An ice cream truck played the Mexican Hat Dance as she made her way to Chris, and the memory still cracks her up.
She cherishes her pawn shop wedding ring as much as she does her Grandmother’s ring, which she also wears every day.
To Amanda, the power of a moment outweighs any fancy accessories. The importance of a dream outshines the comfort of a less challenging path, and the belief in their shared mission makes any struggles surmountable, so long as she and Chris don’t give up on it or each other.
Chris is a Marine Corps veteran with several deployments on his record. From the moment he “caught” a dog on a JROTC field trip to Quantico, Chris knew his future would be with the Marines, and he would be working with dogs. Amanda doesn’t say anything about whether she enjoyed seeing the talkative, brash team member in the clutches of that canine’s fierce grip, but it doesn’t seem impossible that it was fun for her to see Chris meet his match.
Chris doesn’t like to talk specifics about his service, she says, but she’s heard enough and seen enough to understand that it had a profound impact on him. She knows how he struggled after service to fill the void left where his purpose once stood. She saw the way he worked to resume his role in the civilian world that seemed to have left him behind. Where he had camaraderie and a focus in the military he now had uncertainty and unfamiliarity.
Amanda supported Chris as best as she could. She admired his commitment to pursuing a career with canines, from working as a dog handler with the IRS to sniffing out bed bugs for a pest control company, Chris never wavered from that path. But it was difficult for a proud Marine, once selected to train with the elite Israeli Defense Force, to find the same fulfillment sniffing out bed bugs as he had to sniff out IEDs.
Fate intervened through Amanda. Her opportunity to interview Karen Guenther, president CEO and founder of the Semper Fi Fund, lead to Chris running a pilot canine program for that organization. When that work came to an end, Chris knew in his heart it was time for him to carry that mission forward on his own.
The idea for Semper K9 quickly escalated into a vision and became a reality.
The reality became the zone that would either make or break a marriage.
Building any business is difficult. Non-profits can be even more challenging, as the altruistic-based concept is, in fact, a cutthroat industry packed with adversity and faith-testing moments.
Amanda and Chris work from home. Their warm, modest ranch-style house is the current operational center not just for their family but for the non-profit.
Amanda may be on the phone with a potential donor, volunteer, or recipient when her toddler seized the opportunity to scoop up a fresh puppy deposit from the floor and create a mural on the wall. Crack of dawn solitude may be pierced with puppy cries as Amanda desperately tries to escort the rescue puppies outside to tend to business while protecting her small children’s slumber and stretching her sanity.
Chris’ vision to accept dogs in need of rescue into a training program that teaches those dogs how to become a service animal for veterans was noble – and come may say crazy.
This is one of the critical moments in a marriage, when a spouse must decide whether or not to support their spouse’s dream, in spite of unavoidable hardships it creates.
To Amanda it was a no-brainer; “Being a supportive spouse is super important. When your spouse has a dream and a goal you want to be supportive.”
She was all in.
With small children to care for, Chris and Amanda agreed to take the leap and squeeze their savings until they were dry, in order to build and grow Semper K9. When those savings ran out, the couple refused to let a notion of pride prevent them from completing their mission, and accepted public assistance until they began generating an income from their work.
It was hard, says Amanda, but worth it. She was not about to give up on Chris’s dream.
“We’ll go broke. I’ll have puppy pee and crap in my house. I’m pregnant but there’s no doubt because I’m married to my best friend.”
That faith in their mission and in each other is a key factor in the strength of their marriage and the growth of their organization.
It is hard. Very hard, says Amanda, to stay the course. There was no money for anything most people would take for granted. Even a trip to Taco Bell was out of the question when they didn’t have money for gas to drive there. Vacations? Forget it. Their faith has been tested over and over, but each time they stay true to their cause and recommit to their dream as a team.
“We’ve been tired and stressed, and said we are going to quit,” she admits. But with the right mindset, those moments can be reframed.
Instead of dwelling on those financial hardships more than necessary, Amanda refers to them as “small sacrifices,” and notes that she is skilled at being frugal. Instead of collapsing under the weight of their massive workload and parenting duties, they focus on the important example they are setting for their children, and the fun the kids get to have with those rescue puppies.
Instead of rush into a hasty solution to their challenge of cramming the dogs, supplies, and family into one small home, they take a deep breath and find alternatives to help them be patient and smart about that solution.
Canine Coach Families are trained to foster dogs and puppies for them and become part of the Semper K9 team. Word of their good work reached the ears of Mike Rowe’s team, who featured the Baity’s on the “Soldier Dogs” episode of Returning the Favor and helped move their mission forward by building a training pavilion on the Baity’s 33 acres of land being molded into Semper K9’s future facilities.
Five years into their journey, the Baity’s have placed about 42 rescued and fully trained dogs with veterans and their families. Those moments are what makes it all worthwhile to Amanda and Chris.
[clickToTweet tweet=”We’re living our dream with Semper K9 but also being able to show our children what it really means to give back.- Amanda Baity” quote=”We’re living our dream with Semper K9 but also being able to show our children what it really means to give back.- Amanda Baity” theme=”style5″]
From the first paired team to the most recent, every match is a celebration. To them, even one match would have been worth all their struggles. But 41 others and more to come keep them moving forward.
The Baity’s have plans for Semper K9.
Those plans include tiny houses built on their land, with a full-on training facility. There, veterans will be able to live for free and work with the dogs. They will be able to match about 48 veterans with dogs annually.
It’s a win-win, even if it is a massive endeavor.
There are certain struggles ahead for Amanda and Chris. They will have to raise enormous amounts of money to see their dream through. Amanda is aware of that but does not allow that to weigh her down. Her husband gave of himself to support his country in service, and she knows he will continue to do so for the rest of his life. His dream has become her dream, and she wouldn’t have it any other way.
“I’m helping my husband live his dream and to me, that is the American Dream.”
Amanda shared extra tips for anyone interested in turning their own dream into their reality. One of these tips is below. Subscribe to American Snippets to be first in line for our soon-to-be-launched mastermind program, where the rest of her tips, as well as mentorship and insight from numerous experts of diverse industries, will be shared with you.
“Do not start something if you are not 110% committed. There are going to be so many times you want to quit but what’s motivating you and driving you to make sure you always have that in your heart and you’ll be successful at whatever you’re doing.”