Rich Hardin had the illusion of success.
He had a great job as a civilian contractor for the Navy, training dogs for the SEALs canine program in Virginia Beach, but he was fed up with himself.
“I started praying that God would change my life,” said Hardin, 55. “I had done all these things myself, but it wasn’t working. If you look at it on the surface—at all the things that I did—the world would say that I was successful. I had a great job on the police department and being picked as a dog trainer. That’s really a feather in your cap. I was well thought of. I had a good reputation.”
Hardin got divorced in 2012. He hadn’t been very involved in his children’s lives, and on his 48th birthday, he was arrested for driving under the influence of alcohol.
“It was all based on selfish needs, what I wanted to do, and I never really asked anybody else nor God if this is where I should go,” Hardin added. “I had been praying that He would show me a different direction.”
God showed up in the form of an acquaintance from work.
A fellow Louisville Metro Police veteran, Lee Ann Helm, reached out to Hardin out of the blue on Facebook Messenger. The two barely knew each other from their time with the LMPD, but they began talking long-distance and would go on dates when he was in town.
In 2013, they married and Lee Ann moved to Virginia Beach to be with Rich.
“Lee Ann saved my life a couple of times,” he said. “She helped bring me back to God ... We were going to church regularly, and I was trying to follow Christ for the first time in my life. I put Him first.”
The Hardins are members of Southeast Christian Church’s Blankenbaker Campus.
From believing to prioritizing
Hardin had a “great home life” growing up in Maryville, Kentucky. His parents were a constant support in his life.
“If I had to pick my parents, I don’t think I could have done a better job,” Hardin said.
His father was a police officer, and he always had a second job to provide for their family.
“One time I was talking to my uncle about milk and I said, ‘I really can’t distinguish between whole milk, 2% milk and skim milk.’ He said, ‘Boy, that’s because y’all was poor. Your mom used to take powdered milk and mix it with regular milk to make it go further.’ I never knew we were poor because I was always taken care of,” Hardin added.
The Hardin family occasionally went to church.
“I went as a kid a few times … but it wasn’t an everyday journey like it is today,” he said. “I believed in God. My parents believed in God. It just wasn’t a priority in our lives.”
After graduating from high school, Hardin served in the Navy for four years. He got married and had two children, and he later joined the Nelson County Police Dept.
Hardin stayed busy with work, and his marriage and family life struggled. He became a canine officer, which nurtured his love for dogs.
“2011 was really a life-changing event for me,” Hardin said. “I was working all the time. I was teaching at college, training at the Academy and working off duty.”
Hardin’s marriage of 20 years eventually ended in divorce, and he moved to Virginia Beach to train dogs.
In 2014, Rich and Lee Ann moved back to Kentucky and Hardin, who is known as the “dog whisperer,” began a dog-training business called Double H Canine Training Academy in Louisville.
Three locations and seven years later, Hardin has seen God bless his business through a variety of challenges. At one point, he sold his car to keep his business going.
“Someone told me, ‘Let God be your marketer. He’ll put the right people in front of you. You just need to trust Him. Jump in with both feet, put your head down and just work.’ That’s what we did,” Hardin said. “God made it happen, and the people started coming. We didn’t do anything different, but we were praying, putting our hope and trust in Him.”
While the business blossomed, Hardin was diagnosed in 2019 with a rare form of melanoma between his shoulder blades. Most people with the diagnosis live less than five years.
“As we walked outside, Lee Ann goes, ‘Well, we’ll just see what God has to say about it,’” Hardin added. “She’s a prayer warrior and a pretty good rock when you’re in a pinch.”
Hardin underwent brain scans, bone scans, surgeries and other procedures. In the midst of the trial, Hardin had people pray for him.
“One of the ladies said, ‘There are a lot of hurdles ahead of you. A lot. But don’t worry. God’s going to knock them all down. You’re going to walk right over them,” he said.
Hardin is now cancer free and goes in for checkups every three months.
“So God, in fact, did knock down all those hurdles,” Hardin said.