My review of K9s for Warriors:
Service dogs are becoming more and more popular as a way to help veterans cope with the intensity of PTSD. I was skeptical initially but after some loving coaxing by Shari Duval, the President of the organization, K9s for Warriors, I headed down to Ponte Vedra Beach in Florida to find out for myself.
I was paired with a service dog named Onyx and I can truly say that she was the impetus for change in my life. First of all, the experience itself was rewarding. I spent three weeks with four other women warriors who totally got me. We had a great time together and are still good friends to this day. The staff and volunteers at the organization showered us with love, appreciation, and respect. They validated our struggles with PTSD and helped us learn how to use a service dog to help us cope with day to day life.
Onyx pulled me out of a deep depression and has helped lower my anxiety significantly. The first year was a tough transition because I had ceased my veteran advocacy efforts and began to focus on me. Due to my military experience, I had a mindset that my life was dedicated to a mission. First it was the mission of the USAF, then it was the mission of changing laws so we could prevent military sexual assault. After Onyx, my mission became me. It was uncomfortable but necessary for one to truly heal.
I think the most important aspect of having a service dog was the day to day interaction. She kept me occupied because I now had to take care of her, she showered me with attention and love, she elicited feelings of joy and love that I hadn’t felt in years, and lastly she made me feel safe. Because of her, I now had the strength to get back out there and become one with the world. She helped me take the next steps in healing because without her I was too fearful to even leave my home alone. I had grown to depend on my husband to accompany me and make me feel safer. That was hard on him and not good for me.
I have taken a lot of steps with Onyx. Although it is tough sometimes to have a service dog that draws the attention of a lot of people, the benefits far outweigh that aspect. Onyx gets me out of the house, helps me meet new people, and does exactly what she is supposed to do, make me feel safe while we are out and about. I can relax because she is scanning the room for me and making sure no one surprises me or gets too close. I’ve recognized that working on my social anxieties is much like working a muscle. You have to keep working on it to get stronger. It was much easier with a service dog.