Today is Veterans Day in the U.S., Remembrance Day in some other countries, including our neighbors to the north. At Dogster, we pay homage to the men and women who have risked, and sometimes lost, their lives in the line of military duty. Many of those lucky enough to come back need more help than any human companion can give. And so today we also pay homage to the service dogs who are giving these veterans a new lease on life.
Bryson Casey was done with his 15-month National Guard tour of duty in Iraq, back to living his normal life in the U.S. when he got into a car accident on the way to work. It left him a quadriplegic. He felt hopeless. “I started thinking everything I had worked for was gone,” he told the Kansas City Star. But once through some rehab, he was matched with the smiling Lab, Wagner, who came from the wonderful group, Canine Assistants Wagner has become Bryson’s right-hand man, helping him with tasks like picking up his cell phone, which he drops frequently because he has no feelings below his collarbone. “He’s such a beautiful animal,” he says. (If Bryson and Wagner look familiar, it’s because they were featured on the wonderful PBS special, Through a Dog’s Eyes, which we wrote about earlier this year.)
First Lieutenant Jeffrey Adams was on patrol in Iraq when a roadside bomb exploded just 10 feet away from him. His left leg had to be amputated, but he was strong, and did well with his prosthetic titanium leg. He didn’t think he needed a service dog, but then he saw other veterans and how much they were helped by dogs from Canine Companions for Independence. He applied, and was matched with Sharif. “(Sharif) has really changed my life,” he says.
Ray is an 81-year-old disabled World War II Veteran. All of Ray’s disabilities are a result of the war. He is almost entirely deaf, has poor balance, walks with a brace, and gets tired very easily. Addison is his 4-year-old black Lab/golden retriever mix he received in January 2009. Ray waited 10 years before he was able to get a service dog. Addison is trained for hearing, understands basic sign language, turns lights off and on, makes herself stiff so that Ray can stand up, picks up things, wakes Ray up at 7:30 every morning, and if Ray falls, she put her paws on him so that no one will bother him or take his wallet. Like Wagner, she is a Canine Assistants dog.
It’s estimated that one-third of vets returning from service in Iraq and Afghanistan are suffering from PTSD, traumatic brain injury, or major depression. This program in the video above takes two bad situations and turns them on their tails.