“My post-traumatic stress comes from something other than war. It is the result of the actions of someone else in uniform. For years, I kept what happened really close. I drank and was numb for a long time. I was in pure survival mode. I had nightmares and flashbacks. I was to the point of disassociating pretty frequently and losing gaps of time. I would have to immensely prepare what I was going to do for the day.

“I was prescribed medications. I tried talk therapy and self-medicating. Everything. I went back and forth in my head for years about getting a service dog. But it didn’t seem accessible, until I found Leashes of Valor. Nimitz, my service dog, saved my life. I wouldn’t be here with him. I’m living life more instead of just existing. He’s woken me up countless times from nightmares. I wake up, and he’s right on top of me, laying there or licking my face. I’m not always fully in the moment and realizing I’m home and safe. But I see Nimitz. Nimitz is there. So we’ve got to be OK.

“I was getting daily meds out the other day and Nimitz was sitting there watching me. Feeling crushed by his face in that moment is an understatement. I thought of the last time I sat by that drawer holding bottles of pills wondering if that was the answer. Then I thought of his confusion if I were gone.

“I can’t say those thoughts won’t ever come back, but seeing Nimitz there and knowing there’s no way for him to understand if I disappeared changed something in me.

“We sit on the couch together every morning and most days I sit there watching him sleep. Does it make sense to say sometimes it’s a hard realization to look at him and know he saved my life? Not hard in a bad way. Just, wow. I have this incredible dog and this bond with him. It’s a bond I can’t explain to anyone else unless they’ve been here, too.”