VETERAN TOM AND LADY
Tom had struggled with the symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder since his time serving in the Vietnam War, a conflict that left him scarred mentally and physically. Aside from the diagnosis of PTSD, Vietnam also left Tom’s lungs damaged from exposure to Agent Orange, requiring him to be with an oxygen tank 24/7. Tom lived on his own and maintained a tough demeanor. He suffered from many of the common symptoms of PTSD including paranoia and rage.
When selecting a dog for Tom, we searched for a more dominant dog, capable of interacting with Tom on his level and remaining calm and confident in different environments. Tom also needed a dog strong enough to carry his oxygen tanks. When we walked through the shelter, all the other dogs were barking and jumping, but not Lady, she stood calmly, watching, and taking it all in. After working with her further, it was apparent that Lady had all the makings of a service dog and, as an American Staffordshire Terrier Labrador mix, was physically strong enough to assist Tom with his oxygen tanks. Lady turned out to be a perfect fit.
Lady, like all of our dogs, is a rescue from the SPCA, originally brought in from another shelter that was over capacity and was faced with either putting down multiple dogs or relocating them. Fortunately for Our Turn to Serve, our veterans, and Lady, we were able to save her and she, in turn, has been able to play a life-changing role for veterans suffering from PTSD.
Over the course of his relationship with Lady, Tom’s demeanor softened and he became better equipped to tackle the stresses of PTSD. He went from a stern, solid poker face to a man who would chuckle and was able to function more normally in his daily life.
Unfortunately, Tom’s health deteriorated. During some of his final days when we took Lady to visit Tom in the hospital he left us with a quote that summarized his relationship with Lady, “For the first time since I was in Vietnam, I feel like I’m loved and that I can love.” It was Tom’s wish that after his passing Lady be placed with another veteran so another person could experience the same benefits he experienced over the course of his relationship with her. His wish was fulfilled when Lady was placed with veteran Steve, and she remains Steve’s service dog today.