If you have experienced a severe traumatic or life threatening event in your life that haunts you and bothers your normal life style than you probably have PTSD or Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Through my career in the military I have experienced so much from various deployments in support of Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan to Operation Martillo in Guatemala. I’ve seen and done things that an average person should not be exposed to. I thought I overcame the impact of these things. Through my experiences in the military and my current condition I have become anti-social, I stay home more often, I hate loud noises, I can’t sleep at night, I have recurring nightmares of things that should have stayed a forgotten memory and I have anxiety attacks that don't allow me to even function. I have spoken to doctors and Psychiatrists and all they have done for me is prescribe me various medications that don’t consistently work and try to provide me verbal counseling so I can express my feelings. They assume that this treatment of counseling would make things better, but truth be told that these treatments don’t always work. I have been with the Wounded Warrior Battalion in Camp Lejeune North Carolina for almost two years now and I was at the point of giving up and just letting fate take its toll. I have tried so much medications, I have spoken to so many professionals but nothing seemed to work until a good friend of mine introduced me to a guy named Casper Vande Hei who is a professional dog trainer who works for Unleashed Dog Training and is the national president for The Veterans of Canada and the USA K-9 Unit. I have heard about service dogs and what they were capable of but I never thought I deserved one. When you hear service dog you automatically think that the owner is disabled or severely injured. I, on the other hand, am just another person fighting my own demons from my past experiences in the military. So I told myself, “What the heck, might as well give it a try and see where things go.” The moment Casper Vande Hei introduced me to my own personal service dog that I would be working with, my whole life changed. His name is Keifer and he is a German Shepherd mix. Just having this dog by my side gave me a reason to live again. The moment I met this dog and the moment this dog met me our bond became so strong that we were inseparable. Casper taught him to pick up on my anxiety. Keifer began alerting me of my anxiety and he would constantly try to get my attention so I would put my focus on him. When I would have nightmares he’d crawl up beside me and nudge my shoulder trying to wake me up then he’d lick my face and smile at me like he was telling me everything is alright. He’d cuddle with me every chance he got. He is my best friend and he always has my back no matter what happens. Having him by my side gives me the feeling of a new life opening right before my eyes. He made me forget all my problems when I’m around him. This dog has healing powers that no doctor or psychiatrist can provide. If it were up to me I would give every person who is fighting PTSD a chance to acquire a service dog. If medicine and therapy isn’t working for you I’d recommend getting a service dog trained for you, it could save your life. I personally want to thank Burt Berthaiume who is the international president of K-9 unit and Casper Vande Hei for the opportunity to receive my new best friend.
Jonathan – A Sergeant in the United States Marine Corps.