Easton Corbin has always been a dog person. Before he moved to Nashville in 2006, he lived on a farm in Florida and had a lab/cur mix named Sam. Sadly, Sam couldn’t join Corbin when he moved to Music City — “I just didn’t feel like it was fair to bring him up here to a 600 square foot apartment. You know? 150 acres to 600 square feet,” the singer explains — so instead, he was rehomed in Florida where he could continue enjoying the life he’d lived with Corbin. Later on, while he was married, the singer and his wife shared two dachshunds.
In light of his touring schedule, and the fact that he’s now a single guy, Corbin knows it’s not the right time for him to start a new pack right at the moment. That doesn’t stop him from fusing his love of dogs with his long-standing advocacy for military veterans in a new partnership with Companions for Heroes (C4H), an organization that partners veterans, first responders and others living with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) with companion animals.
“Another cool idea is that they get the animals from shelters,” Corbin points out, telling Country Now why he chose this specific organization to support. “So not only is the dog saving the vet’s life, really, but they’re saving an animal. They do a really great job.”
Corbin recently met with David Sharpe, the founder of C4H, who is himself an Air Force veteran and struggled with PTSD in the years that followed his service. The singer says that hearing Sharpe’s story, as well as that of another veteran, further steeled his faith in the impact a dog can have on a suffering person’s life.
“I mean, before these dogs, I think their personal relationships were just falling apart. Daily things you take for granted, they just couldn’t do, because of the stress, the experiences they had,” he says. “He said, ‘Man, when I take my kids to the park, there were just too many people there. I had to turn around and leave. I just couldn’t handle being around that many people.’”
After just two weeks of having his dog, though, things began to change. “They were able to go to the St. Patricks’ Day Parade in Savannah [Georgia], and that’s huge,” Corbin adds. “Just because of that dog. Man, what a difference.”
His partnership with C4H couldn’t have been more perfectly timed. As he made the decision to work with the organization, Corbin was simultaneously readying an upcoming single called “Raising Humans,” which tells the story of a relationship between a man and his dog — from the perspective of the latter.
“He wouldn’t have been my first choice if I’d had one when I met him / He looked like he’d be moody, the kind that let little things upset him,” the song begins. “But fate don’t ask opinions, it just gives you what you need / So we headed home in that old truck, and I let him ride right next to me…”
It’s the kind of ballad that can call a tear to the eye of even the toughest good ol’ boy: An ode to a good dog, who remains devoted to the task of “raising his human” until the very end of his life. Corbin says the song always gets his audience a little weepy when he plays it live, and he doesn’t blame them. “Raising Humans,” which was penned by songwriter Michael White, had a similar effect on him when he first heard it several years ago.
“[White] had a dog named Max. Max was his best friend, and was with him through a divorce and some pretty tough life stuff, you know. Finally, it came to that dreaded time when Max just got old and in bad health, and he had to put him down,” Corbin recalls. “The night he did that, he came home and thought, ‘Man, I wonder what Max would say. I wonder what would be his outlook.’”
The more he thought about it, Corbin says, the more the song seemed to be about more than a relationship between a man and his dog. “It’s really a bigger song about life, and the sacrifices we make for our loved ones,” he continues. “Whether that be [sacrifices] our dogs make for us or we make for them. And to me, that song isn’t just about dogs — to me, that song is about my grandma. She raised grandkids and sacrificed a lot to do that.”
It’s a testament to the song’s power that its message calls to mind different things for different people. “My guitar player, he lost his dad about two years ago. When he first heard that song, he was like, ‘To me, that song is about my dad,’” Corbin points out. Across the board, however, the song speaks to the ways in which everyone, sooner or later, winds up in a situation that they might not have originally expected to find themselves in — and it works out for the best.
“You don’t have a choice, sometimes. But you end up exactly where you’re supposed to be,” he adds. That theme resonates across his work with C4H, too. The organization pairs people and animals who are both struggling with life’s hardships, and turns that struggle into something beautiful.
“These dogs are literally raising these humans,” Corbin reflects. “And on top of that, it’s also saving a dog’s life from a shelter. So it’s a win-win.”