"Prior to receiving my service dog, Truman, I was just an Army veteran, a single mom of a wild-child three year old and trying to survive full-time community college to pursue a nursing degree. After leaving the service, the stress of acclimating to civilian life was extremely difficult. I found myself getting incredibly short-tempered and overwhelmed very quickly in public. On top of that, PTSD resulting from sexual trauma made it difficult to get a good night's rest, get along with others, and function like a normal mother. I was having panic attacks weekly, nightmares almost nightly, and was unable to sit still in a two hour college lecture without leaving because I was consumed with panic. If I couldn't get to class early enough to get the seat where I felt safe and could see everyone around me, I wouldn't go to class at all. I am ashamed to even admit that my depression and anxiety was so overwhelming, that I often felt myself dissociating and I was unable to emotionally connect or be fully present around my own daughter and family.
And then I was paired with my Paws Assisting Veterans (PAVE) service dog. Very quickly Truman and I became connected. From the very beginning, he has slept in bed with me, ever present in case I needed comfort or security. When I have moments where I cannot get out bed, he is always touching me and offers a reassuring head rest on my chest or back. In public settings, my service dog is constantly aware of our surroundings and I know that I can relax when he does because if something was amiss, I trust that he would immediately alert me. An unexpected, but amazing result of having a service dog is that I now have the ability to speak to strangers with more confidence and without feeling suspicious of others’ intentions. Everyone wants to ask questions about my service dog and I find that talking about my him and how wonderful he is for me is incredibly easy to do. This has even helped me make friends and study partners in school, something I was unable to do before. I finally felt ‘normal’, something that I felt that I have been faking for so many years. I see my own family more because I am comfortable staying there and relaxing to the point of enjoying friendly, light-hearted interaction. Truman is a member of the family, and not only is he my best friend, he's my daughter’s as well. He has been nothing short of a blessing to me and I could not imagine life without him being my right hand man." - Sarah