Burlington County Times, By Danielle DeSisto – March 12, 2018
MEDFORD — Lori Porter will never forget the morning she woke up with a man’s hand over her mouth.
She began to panic. The man threatened to kill her 15-year-old son and his three friends asleep in her basement. He then sexually assaulted her.
The weeks that followed in the fall of 2005 were filled with constant worry. For the first time in her life, Porter began to have panic attacks.
“I couldn’t even go to the restroom alone,” said Porter, who lives in Cherry Hill.
She started seeing a therapist, going to support groups, and explored getting a bodyguard. It wasn’t until Porter learned about personal protection dogs that she began to envision a brighter future.
Porter bought a black and tan German Shepard named Major, who weighed more than 90 pounds. Major went everywhere with her, from the grocery store to the restroom.
“He just gave me a sense of security,” Porter said. “A dog saved my life. So I’d like to help save other women’s lives.”
That’s why Porter launched nonprofit Major’s Miracle Network a month ago to provide full service protection and emotional support dogs to victims of sexual assault. The Medford-based organization works with Absolute Control Dog Training, also in Medford, to coach dogs in obedience and scenario training.
Service dogs can cost about $10,000, Porter said. But through the nonprofit, victims will be given dogs for free.
Porter debated starting a nonprofit for many years, but was prompted to take action after someone she knew committed suicide after she was sexually assaulted. Porter wasn’t aware of any other organizations in the area that provide service dogs to sexual assault victims, and noted that many can’t afford to buy a dog on their own.
“There’s a definite need for this,” Porter said.
Most of all, Porter feels now is the right time to launch the nonprofit because she’s finally ready to share her story. She’s participated in speaking engagements and published her story on the Major’s Miracle Network website to educate the public on the benefits of service dogs.
“I think it’ll be therapeutic for myself,” Porter said.
The nonprofit is working to identify victims in need through its website, majorsmiraclenetwork.com, on social media, and through referrals from prosecutor’s offices in South Jersey. Porter hopes to grow the Major’s Miracle Network to reach assault survivors from around the country.
Major died several years ago, but Porter is determined to honor his memory by helping other survivors the way he helped her. She plans to get another dog of her own in the near future.
“I want to give women back their sense of security so they can have their lives back,” Porter said.