Meet one of our veterans, Ellen Farmer, who recently received her first service dog from Healing4Heroes. “I started out in the air force a few months after graduating high school. I was military police for 5 years in Shreveport, LA, then was moved to IT.” Her role in the military police started causing a lot of anxiety and panic attacks. Because of that, they decided to transfer her. That, coupled with getting married and having 3 children, she decided to separate from the military this February.
“Transitioning from the military was very difficult. I couldn’t do a lot of the things I used to do, like going to the mall or crowded places.”
Ellen knew she needed help. She wanted to return to the life she knew and be there emotionally for her children, but she didn’t want to take medications every day. She turned to a different kind of PTSD and anxiety support: service dogs.
“I filled out requests for a few of the organizations and only Piper from Healing4Heroes called me, and she called me the very next day.”
After that phone call, Ellen filled out the paperwork and was scheduled for a training class. During training, she met with veterans going through the same process as well as those who had come back to help with training. The excitement began to build as it was time to pick a dog. This is a big step, so it is taken very seriously. The trainers bring out multiple dogs and the veterans get to choose three dogs to walk with and spend time with to see if they are a good match. Ellen matched with her second dog, Reign.
“It was as if she [Reign, a shepherd mix] picked me. It just felt right.”
Reign, her service dog, was rescued from a litter of dogs that were part of a hoarder situation. Two of the puppies were fostered with a sister organization that H4H uses to board and train the dogs before they’re paired with a veteran. There are 8 more from that same rescue coming to the next training class. This situation is typical of the program, where in one effort, H4H can save both a veteran and a dog and pair them together for a better quality of life.
Ellen was taught how to properly train Reign for the week and then the two headed home, but the work was far from over. Now, Ellen is still training Reign and logging her hours every month for about 5 more months, but she is confident the time investment will be well worth it. This confidence, in part, stems from the way Healing4Hearoes treated her.
“Being in the military, you get to know your unit like family. I still talk to the people I worked alongside with all the time. Then at Healing4Heroes, it was the same way. We’re like family. I’m meeting up with another lady who has a service dog from H4H next week to let the dogs run. A bigger group of H4H veterans just did a biathlon together with their dogs. I really want to do that too.”
Ellen wasn’t always so sure though, her biggest concern was how her service dog would mesh with her family and kids.
These concerns quickly went away as she saw how well Reign adapted to her family. Reign now acts as a safety net for the young ones by helping Ellen stay calm and alert in anxious situations. She described how when a panic attack comes on, it can cause her to faint and black out. Reign can sense this and leans in to get Ellen to focus on her instead of the emotion, thereby preventing her from fainting. She’ll also be able to hear when they’re approaching a crowd and alert Ellen, apply pressure, and help her through it.
Ellen is so thankful to be able to have a service dog and recommends other veterans in her situation to keep seeking support. Contact Healing4Heroes or other veteran support organizations to get the help needed to get back to a better quality of life. Service dogs are very expensive to get on your own, but there are a lot of programs to help provide them to veterans.
Reign was in part funded by a corporate sponsor, Signal 88 Security of Dallas, TX. A big shout out to them!
Visit https://Healing4Heroes.org/donations to help give hope to another veteran or volunteer your time if you’re in the Georgia area. Veterans can apply and get on the waiting list by going to https://Healing4Heroes.org/application.