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I left the Air Force in 2011 diagnosed with PTSD and struggling with communication problems, depression, anxiety, nightmares…. After an unsuccessful experience with another service dog organization, I found New Horizons and was matched with Reagan in June 2013. They pair the dogs based on the dog’s personality/strengths/etc., and the handler’s needs. Reagan and I connected instantly! It was truly amazing. We were inseparable after that. It's like he knew I was his person. He automatically notices and comforts me when I’m getting anxious and senses changes in my mood. He has literally kept me going when I was about to give up completely. He has flown with me several times. The most recent trip was to a Wounded Warrior Project Women's Retreat in NY. He was a star the entire trip. He’s my best friend and rock. I’m starting a new job soon and, of course, Reagan will go with me.
In 2010, I was diagnosed with a neuro-muscular disorder that will eventually rob me of many functions. My balance was deteriorating rapidly. With 23 years as a first responder in law-enforcement, I knew it was important to postpone wheel-chair use for as long as possible. I wanted to stay mobile and active to delay the progression of the disease. New Horizons set me up with Cheddar. He is there to give me the support and balance I need. He allows me freedom. He also gives me the emotional comfort that has let me reduce my pain medications to a minimum. I don’t know what I’d do without him.
A spinal injury from a car accident many years ago left me a quadriplegic. Although confined to a wheel-chair, I was able to raise my children and work part time. When my children grew up and started their own lives, I knew I couldn’t live independently without help. I had never had a dog before, but when New Horizons introduced me to Michele, it was instant love. She has the perfect personality to live with me. She was out of the first group of puppies fostered in the Prison Program. Both Michele and I developed a special relationship with Frank who was her inmate handler. I feel privileged to have been a part of that process. Frank was released and now has a career training dogs. Michele has given me the gift of independence and a new friend.
When I came home after serving two years in Vietnam, there was little support for returning veterans and PTSD wasn’t acknowledged and understood as it is now. For years my temper had a very short fuse which caused pain to me and those in my life. I came to realize I had PTSD by being exposed to dogs – my wife has been a puppy-raiser and trainer for New Horizons Service Dogs for many years. I noticed the calming effect just being around them had on me. Savvy has been my service dog for several years as my constant companion. I also have knee problems and she has been trained to assist me with balance and stability. I need my dog – what she does for me is tremendous. She has so much joy and love. She is always there to assist and is my best friend.
When I was 18-years-old, rods were inserted in my spine which left me unable to bend over. Doctors warned that bending over could cause a rod to snap which would be life threatening. I used to cry when I dropped my phone and no one was there to pick it up for me. New Horizons gave me Nasa in 2013. He is trained to help me with so many things – especially picking up things I drop. I hope to get my driver’s license soon and won’t have to worry about being stranded if I drop my keys – I’ll have Nasa at my side. He is a life saver for me. I now feel like a superhero – there is so much I can do. But like Batman with Robin, I would be nothing without Nasa. I’ve had such an amazing experience with New Horizons Service Dogs. Having one of their dogs has really improved my life.
Our 7-year-old son, Seth, has autism. He regularly experienced high levels of anxiety and although he could speak, was basically non-verbal. We got Kelly from New Horizons in February 2013. In the process of learning to give commands to Kelly he has gained the confidence to talk to others. He is also gaining confidence and independence from handling the responsibilities of feeding and brushing his dog. His anxiety attacks, which would often last up to an hour, now pass in a few minutes. Seth is open to try new things that used to “freak him out.” His connection to Kelly is awesome – they are totally best friends. Getting the dog has grounded Seth and the change for our family has been amazing.
Post-polio syndrome has left me wheel-chair bound for many years. New Horizons gave me my first service dog 18 years ago. I now have my third New Horizons dog – Curry – who is as wonderful as my previous dogs. I had lost the confidence and ability to go anywhere before I got a service dog. They help me with everything from opening doors to getting things for me. I can’t even open the refrigerator without Curry’s help. He keeps me mobile. If I didn’t have a service dog I’m sure I would be bed-ridden. He even rode a ferris wheel with me and in that moment, I was on top of the world. In addition to providing me with wonderful dogs, the folks at New Horizons have been phenomenal with support and encouragement.
I could no longer practice medicine when a neurological disorder progressed to the point that I struggled to maintain balance and had lost much of the strength in my hands. When my right leg was amputated just below the knee, the challenge to stay mobile and independent grew. Initially, I resisted the idea of getting a service dog, but after much encouragement from my wife, I got Indy from New Horizons in 2010. Fortunately with Indy’s help, I’m able to continue teaching in the medical profession. Indy has been trained to serve as a living brace for me – using his strength to keep me from falling. In spite of my physical limitations, I can now do almost anything I want to do with confidence. Indy is short for Independence – what he has given back to me. He also gives me tremendous emotional comfort. My medical practice for 12 years in the Air Force didn’t include treatment of those wounded in combat. However, based on my personal experiences and conversations with veterans and their health-care providers, I’m convinced a well-trained service dog offers the most effective treatment for PTSD. The impact of having this service dog is the difference between night and day in my life. He makes life possible, not just bearable.
I served as an Army Combat Medic for 13 years. In 2004, my convoy was heading back to Baghdad when it was hit with an IED. I spent the next year at WalterReedHospital recovering from a traumatic brain injury, spinal cord compression, shrapnel wounds, hip and knee injuries. My road to recovery has been challenging – I’ve had seven surgeries to repair my injuries. I still have fierce migraines and problems with balance. PTSD continues to create anxiety for me when I’m in public or new places. My New Horizons service dog, Emmett, has been invaluable in helping me recover and live a more normal life. He was trained to provide balance and stability for me in addition to reassurance when I’m in public. He senses my anxiety and places himself between me and other people. For example, he stands behind me in line at the grocery store. These seemingly small things mean a lot to me.
A roadside IED explosion in Irag forever changed my life. When my fellow soldiers realized I was still inside the vehicle, they rushed to rescue me, but not before I was severely burned. I now struggle with a traumatic brain injury and results of severe burns. I have little strength and coordination on my left side. My head injuries have made speech and communication difficult. My New Horizons Service Dog, Courage, is helping me in so many ways. Although it isn’t easy, I’m communicating again and can walk for brief periods, with Courage.