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How a Dog Helped a Military Veteran Heal

June is PTSD awareness month.

A dog helps a veteran with PTSD.

Few of us don’t know stories of how a dog made a positive difference in someone’s life. My life has always included at least one four-legged family member, and we raised our sons with the help of our dogs. But some dogs go above and beyond for those they love. One military veteran I know owes his return to normal life to his canine companion. 

Karl (not his real name) had been honorably discharged from the army in 2012. As newlyweds, he and his wife, Stephanie, looked forward to building a life together. Unfortunately, the experiences he had while serving in the Middle East made that difficult.

Read More: An Iraq Veteran’s Journey of Healing

Like thousands of other veterans, Karl was battling Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). His symptoms made a good night’s sleep almost impossible because of the flashback nightmares. He spiraled into depression as he worried about his new wife’s safety at night. It terrified him to think he might accidently cause her harm while he was in the midst of a flashback nightmare. He also struggled during the day with crowds and even loud noises.

Doctors prescribed medicine that helped, but didn’t completely alleviate the symptoms. They also worried that the heavy narcotics could cause lasting damage. Karl and his wife searched for answers but had almost given up hope when they heard about PTSD service dogs.

Enter Riley, a four-legged golden retriever with a grin as wide as the state of Texas.

Read More: How Service Support Our Veterans

Karl and Riley began working together after Riley graduated from his initial training. They were immediately best friends. Riley bonded with Stephanie as well. It was his job, after all, to help Karl come out of a flashback nightmare while making sure Stephanie stayed safe. Riley went everywhere with Karl, literally watching his back. PTSD dogs are trained to keep others from getting too close to their owners. They’re also taught to be aware of the infinitesimal changes that happen in times of stress. Because of their ability to sense what’s coming, they can head off PTSD episodes.

Since June is PTSD awareness month, it’s time we’re all aware of the struggle many veterans face and the options they have for treatment. Let’s band together and bring this issue into the light and help our veterans heal.

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