Hounds for heroes

Monday, October 3, 2011 - 10:09am

For Private First Class Jennifer Allen, the legacy of months in Iraq is post traumatic stress disorder.

She says the only reason she can cope is because of her 19-month-old boxer-lab mix, Linus.

"If I did not have him, I would not be here right now. I would probably be holed up in my room, still probably having anger issues," she said.

Linus was among four dogs graduating Saturday as a Brigadoon Service Animal.

All year, he trained at Joint Base Lewis McChord to be a Jennifer's constant companion.

"He wakes me up from my nightmares... and he keeps me calm when I'm driving," she said.

According to Veteran's Affairs, more than 20 percent of men and women are now coming back from deployment with PTSD. More and more, these dogs aren't just recommended but prescribed as part of medical treatment."

"There is such a huge need of these veterans to get a dog," said Denise Costanten, Founder, Brigadoon Service Dogs.

Constanten says the effect of these friendships shows up clearly on soldier's faces.

"The anxiety fall away, confidence to go out in public again, confidence to live alone," she said.

Because more important than any commands they've learned, these dogs are ever standing watch so soldiers like Jennifer Allen can finally stand down.

"Without him I would probably not be able to have a normal life," she said.

Joint Base Lewis-McChord says it currently has 13 dogs on post certified as service animals for injured military and veterans with PTSD. The wait for a dog is one year.

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