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Service Dog Awareness Month: Our Unsung Heroes and Their Stories

The Paw Print

Essential Pet Blog

The saying goes that dogs are “man’s best friend.” Every dog owner can attest to the truth behind this statement, but a service dog owner knows that this saying only scratches the surface on an irreplaceable relationship. 

September marks Service Dog Awareness Month, and if you’ve worked with a service dog, you know there is an immense amount to be grateful for. Service dogs are literally and figuratively a lifeline. They help their humans navigate through life with ease and comfort, knowing that their companion is always by our side. 

In honor of Service Dog Awareness Month, we’re sharing some true feel-good stories about these unsung heroes. Be sure to grab some tissues— these stories may set off the waterworks!

Stacy and her service dog, Charlie

“I was an Air Force photographer for 10 years before retiring in 2008 due to combat injuries — including trauma to my brain. Back home, I suffered from ongoing physical and emotional pain, PTSD, anxiety, and later, seizures. I knew other veterans who had benefited from service dogs, but I didn’t want people staring or knowing that I needed help. Then, two years ago, I had a grand mal seizure, which changed my outlook. What if I had another one, this time without my husband around?

“Last November, America’s VetDogs paired me with Charlie, now a 2-year-old black Lab, and I don’t leave the house without him. I have some deafness in one ear, and Charlie alerts me when people are coming up behind us, so I’m not startled — a leftover reflex from war. If I lose my balance, he presses up against me to stabilize me. If I’m thrashing in my sleep from a PTSD nightmare, he’ll nudge me awake or pull off the covers and put his head on my lap to be petted until my heart rate comes down. If I were to have a significant seizure, he knows to find help if I’m alone and then lie by my side until I come around.

“Charlie and I travel the country photographing veterans. His presence in public is a protection in and of itself. If I slur my words or fall, strangers might assume I’m intoxicated, but with Charlie by my side, they know I need help. I used to feel like a burden to loved ones, but now, I feel the shackles have been taken off.”

This story originally appeared in Women’s Health Magazine.

Abbie and her service dog, Jiffy

“Abbie was diagnosed with Cerebral Palsy at just 7 months of age. She doesn’t have use of her legs and has needed a lot of physical help throughout her life. People always had to pick up the items she dropped, she needed help transferring from a wheelchair to a bed, and in fact, she needed help with many daily living tasks that most people take for granted. As she got older, because of having limited independence and fear of being alone, she developed chronic depression and anxiety.

“After almost 2 years on the waiting list, Abbie was matched with Jiffy, a beautiful yellow Labrador…fast forward three years, Abbie and Jiffy are an incredible team! Jiffy retrieves everything Abbie drops, she opens and closes doors, she assists with transfers, helps Abbie get dressed, pushes Abbie’s wheelchair footplate up and down, and so much more…

Abbie says, “I wouldn’t be doing this if Jiffy wasn’t in my life because it wouldn’t be possible. I thought I knew what love was, but I truly had no idea how unbreakable, how deep our bond would become. I’m never alone anymore so the fear of tackling these big transitions doesn’t bother me as much, because Jiffy is always by my side.'”

This story was originally posted by Canine Partners for Life

Mark and his service dog, Skipper

“When I first found out that NEADS had a Service Dog for me, I will admit that I got excited, but when I was told his name was Skipper, I knew as a Navy Veteran this match was meant to be. After two weeks of training, I came home with Skipper, and although I knew my life would change, I had no idea how drastic that change would be.

“I no longer dread going shopping. I know if I drop my keys or wallet, my partner will be there to pick them up. I no longer have to figure out how to maneuver my scooter to press the door access button and to get in before it closes, because Skipper is always ready with a paw to push the button. At home, lights are turned on and off for me, and doors are opened and closed.

But the most important thing that Skipper has given me is the confidence to go out into the world and be a normal person again, leaving my handicap behind. It has only been three months with Skipper, but I cannot imagine life without him. People often talk about the love between an owner and their pet, but the love between a Service Dog and their human is the greatest love one can imagine.”

This story was originally posted by NEADS.

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