Navy veteran Damian served his country for over 14 years as a Naval Explosive Ordnance Disposal Technician. He served 3 deployments to Afghanistan where he was responsible for disarming and removing explosives. Like many returning veterans, Damian has suffered the effects of depression and PTSD.
“I was functioning okay, but my home life was deteriorating,” Damian said to the Petco Foundation. A friend of his then recommended he look into getting a service dog.
“A friend of mine had gotten a service dog and said it had helped him get better sleep, which was a big problem I was having. I started looking into different organizations and found K9s For Warriors. Not only were they great to veterans, but they also used rescue dogs,” Damian continued.
Therapy and service dogs have been shown to help people in Damian’s position tremendously. Service dogs can be trained to help with the specific anxieties and symptoms of PTSD that veterans often face as well. Many veterans suffer anxiety over the uncertainty of what might be hiding around the corner or in the next aisle at the supermarket. Service dogs are trained to be their eyes and ears, however. They can be trained to confirm there is no danger in an area so that the person can proceed with a sense of security. They are also trained to help calm someone who is having a panic attack and remind owners of when it is time to take their medication.
Damian was matched with a service dog named Shai by the K9s For Warriors organization. The charity gets 90% of their dogs from shelters, so not only does the dog provide a valuable service for the veteran, the veteran is providing a loving forever home for a canine in need.
Damian says that he and Shai bonded immediately. In addition to helping Damian with his symptoms, Shai’s presence in his life helped him reconnect with nature.
“[Before Shai] I wanted to stay in my apartment away from everyone, but now with Shai, I’m engaging in the world more. Shai has given me a quality of life that I had lost. His stillness and quiet help bring me calm. He accentuates all the good tools that I’ve learned and opens me up to other avenues to move forward.”
Damian was able to graduate from Columbia this May. Shortly after, he accepted a position with the K9 for Warriors program as a dog trainer. Now, Damian helps dogs learn how to help veterans like him, and Shai is right there with him as his trusted companion and aid.
“I love dogs. I read Call of the Wild every year on my birthday. Dogs are healing. It’s great to now see how trainers transform dogs and to see the beginning of their journey. There’s something special about all their stories, and what they do to give everything they have to you,” Damian said.
K9s for Warriors do not charge veterans any money for these services. They require the support of generous donors so that they can continue to rescue both veterans like Damian and dogs like Shai. You can learn more about how to support their work through this link.
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