Could A Service Dog Change Your Life?
Has a traumatic experience made the transition back into civilian life more challenging than you thought? Do you have trouble sleeping, leaving the home, or reconnecting with friends and family? Are you constantly on edge, paranoid, or easily startled to the extent that it’s impossible to relax? Perhaps you struggle to reconcile the trauma of losing friends, witnessing the horrors of war, or having to do things that didn’t make you proud but were necessary. Or it could be that an injury or disability has left you searching for purpose and independence in a life that seems completely foreign now.
For many veterans, returning home is more difficult than what they faced on the battlefield. The support group of fellow warriors you relied on overseas disappears. The residual fear and hypervigilance from combat prevent you from leaving the house because nowhere else feels safe. And the flashbacks and negative intrusive thoughts force you to relive your worst experiences day after day.
So, you begin isolating yourself because you can’t discuss your pain with your spouse or family or friends. And even if they could understand, you’re probably afraid the truth would change the way they look at you. After all the medications, therapies, and support groups for veterans—it probably feels like you are running out of options.
But you do have an alternative.
As a veteran, myself, I have been right where you are now, and I know it can get better. Having one of our free, highly-trained service dogs for veterans by your side can give you the chance to truly reclaim your independence and find new meaning in life.
War Changes People, No Matter How Strong You Are
Many veterans coming home from Iraq and Afghanistan bear incredible emotional and physical scars that make civilian life a daunting challenge. Acclimating to this new reality is already difficult enough. But if you were injured or had a traumatic experience, recovery can feel like an eternity away. Exposure to gunfire, explosions, friendly casualties, injury, accidents, and the loss of life all have the power to fundamentally change who we are.
As human beings, our minds are simply not designed to withstand that level of trauma. Therefore, many of us come home carrying a burden that we don’t know how to reconcile. And unfortunately, our training does little to help us because we are taught to be unwavering in our self-sufficiency, autonomy, and independence—both in combat and in life. We are supposed to be the baddest of the bad—the strongest of the strong. So, naturally, asking for help isn’t exactly easy.
As a result, many of us try to bury the pain, but that only allows bigger problems to grow in its place, such as anxiety, depression, and PTSD. In fact, the US Department of Veterans Affairs estimates that in any given year, upwards of 20 percent of all service members who served in Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF) or Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF) will have PTSD (although, that number is likely grossly under-reported). Moreover, in a 2016 report, the USDVA also found that veterans were suffering losses at 20 suicides per day. At that rate, more American service members have been lost to suicide than to combat!
This is precisely why I have dedicated my life to training service dogs for veterans. It’s not a magic wand that will fix everything. But with the help of a service dog, you truly can regain your independence, identity, and a newfound sense of purpose.
One of the most powerful benefits of having a service dog is that you will never be alone again because that dog is there solely for you. It’s not simply a therapy dog or an emotional support animal—it is very much a medical device that can read and respond to your physical and emotional needs just like a machine. This is why we only provide professional service and therapy dogs, not emotional support animals. And although medication and therapy have their place, our animals have the potential to heal you on a level that rivals anything a doctor could prescribe.
The service canines we train are not your ordinary service animals. In fact, your dog will be so finely attuned to your physical and emotional needs that it will give other service animals self-esteem issues. We put over $30,000 worth of training into every canine to ensure that each one’s skill set is tailored to the unique needs of the individual. If you have a physical disability, we can teach your dog to retrieve medications, open doors, or push a wheelchair. For veterans with anxiety or PTSD, your dog can act as a grounding mechanism that allows you to deescalate and tolerate distress better.
Service dogs can also help you recognize ways in which PTSD symptoms may be manifesting physically or emotionally by calling attention to and responding to changes in your behavior or emotional state. If depression is forcing you into isolation and inaction, a service dog can give you purpose—a reason to get up, leave the house, or go for a walk. Over time, these little successes give you momentum, enabling you to take on greater challenges.
Caring for your service dog can also help improve other relationships. Building patience and learning how to communicate with your dog are skills that you can gradually use to reconnect with your children and spouse. Another great thing about these animals is that they don’t need to know your life story or what happened ten years ago. All they care about is you—unconditionally.
I understand that it can be difficult believing that anything can make a difference. But having a service dog can give you a reason to live, a life to protect, and a battle buddy who will have your back through thick and thin. I know from personal experience just how life-saving these incredible animals can be. With a little work and time, I believe one of our dogs can change your life.
If you are a veteran who is considering getting a service dog, you may have some questions or concerns…
How Long Does It Take To Get A Service Dog?
Fortunately, our wait-times are typically 14 months or less with occasional fast-tracking on a case-by-case basis. Some trainers have wait-lists that are four to five years, which is ridiculous considering the crucial need for these animals. However, training a service dog to meet your specific physical, emotional, or medical needs will naturally require some time. Once you contact us, we will walk you through the application process, including expectations for the timeline, so that you are informed every step of the way.
I worry about the extra attention the dog will attract to me.
I understand that having too many eyes on you at once can be stressful. However, most of the people around you will either wave the sight off or become enamored by the unflinching loyalty that your dog demonstrates. Their focus won’t be on you, but the furry little badass that refuses to give anyone else attention but you. Moreover, your service animal will be specifically trained to help you overcome any feelings of anxiety or uneasiness wherever you are. In time, you will see that your focus becomes so narrowed on your partner at your feet, that everyone else will fade into the background.
At this point, can anything really make a difference?
Listen, I have been in your shoes. Before I got involved with these animals, I spent 18 months in the biggest military hospital in the country, Walter Reed. I was put on 193 different types of medication, got divorced, and even thought about just giving up—in the worst possible way. But my dog saved my life in a moment of weakness and continues to help me overcome my own trauma. Over time, I realized that once you begin reframing thoughts like I can’t do this or Nothing will make a difference into Can I do this? and Can anything make a difference?—the the answer is always, yes—irrefutably, yes.
Take Your Future Into Your Own Hands
If you want to take your life back and free yourself from PTSD or the trauma of combat injuries, I can help you restore your sense of independence and purpose. Please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org to schedule your consultation so we can discuss the application process and timeline for changing your life with a free service dog.