For the past several years, we’ve heard a lot about veterans suffering from PTSD after returning home from Iraq and Afghanistan. And we’ve heard the stories about the various (sometimes interesting) methods to help them — from biofeedback to gardening to nudity. But one approach that’s helping thousands of soldiers is a basic one: Pairing them with man’s best friend.
Jake Fish of Port Angeles, Washington, was medically discharged from the Marine Corps in 1997. But in recent years, he continued to struggle with PTSD. Coming to his rescue was the service dog Megan, a two-year-old golden retriever, who was trained by the local nonprofit New Leash on Life.
New Leash on Life trains dogs and puppies left at the Clallam Humane Society to become service animals — ultimately providing them to veterans and people with disabilities.
Fish told the Peninsula Daily News, “The biggest thing about having Megan is that I’m not lonely. She gives me a feeling of companionship. I also know for a fact that she lowers my stress levels. She puts me in a good mood when I don’t want to be in one.”
As soon as Fish was paired with Megan, he began bringing her to the Northwest Veterans Resource Center, where he volunteers to help other vets access their benefits from the VA. Megan decided to volunteer for duty, too.
“Vets will come into the office, and we’ll start going over the paperwork, which means talking about all the vets’ pain and issues they have. It can get kind of tense,” Fish said. “Megan will get up from behind my desk and go to the person, and they just relax. She’s so happy and soft, they forget what they’re talking about that happened to them when they’re petting her. She lessens their anxiety of talking about stuff.”
“I feel like helping others as a service officer is a continuation of my duty,” Fish said. Megan clearly has figured out that helping more than just her veteran owner is a continuation of her duty, too.