Meet Erica, a former Army Active Duty, who is leaving stereotypes in the dust. Now a medically retired veteran, Erica fought with homelessness and struggled with anxiety and panic attacks for years. She knew she needed help, but didn’t know where to turn. Erica found Healing4Heroes™ in 2019 and knew she found the help she needed the moment she met her American Pit Bull, Lani.
Her road to recovery all started the moment she saw Lani on the first day of training.
“When I first met her, I just fell in love with her. It was instant, I just felt her soul.”
One of the reasons that Erica and Lani felt so connected, was because of their pasts. Erica had bounced around in foster care as a young child before being adopted and Lani was thrown out of a car and abandoned as a puppy. She was then put through foster care as well until Erica adopted her early this year. Erica feels that this could be why they feel so connected.
“Lani and I have a lot in common because we’re both adopted.”
Having such a great bond allows Erica to be easily comforted by her four-legged companion. Before being paired with Lani, one of Erica’s favorite activities was to go to the movie theater. Now with Lani, she tries not to change her habits. Doing this activity with her support animal makes it much easier for Erica to feel comfortable and enjoy her time.
“At the movie theater, she allows me to actually sit, because usually I am looking at every door trying to figure out where I can run if anything happens.”
Despite Erica feeling comfortable with Lani in the theater environment, others may not feel the same, especially having a Pit Bull as a service dog. Other movie watchers will often stare, point or stay clear of the service animal due to the vicious stereotype that Pit Bulls have been given. Most people do not comprehend that Lani is just as qualified as any other service dog, despite her breed.
“Because she is a Pit Bull, a lot of people have that stereotype. She is a service dog. She is not going to harm you, she is not even going to worry about you, she is here for me.”
Before having her companion, Erica was constantly filled with anxiety and was extremely uncomfortable. Because of these strong feelings, she struggled with facing the world on a day-to-day basis and was held back from doing tasks she desired to accomplish. Lani encourages her and makes her feel safe and strong enough to leave her residence.
“She helps me be able to go out into the community more, because to be honest, I don’t like to be around many people. I will do it, but I get very anxious.”
Since they were paired earlier in the year, Erica and Lani have made a lot of progress training at the provided Healing4Heroes™ sessions, and even on their own. As they continue to train, the more comfortable Erica feels, the more trust she has in Lani, and the more she is able to relax because she knows her companion will have her back.
“Lani’s role is mainly just being my comfort and helping me with my anxiety, because I do have panic attacks. I have fainted, and she woke me up.”
After spending countless hours together, the duo is almost past basic training, and is working towards new achievements. Erica is proud of how far they have come, but is always seeking improvement.
“She doesn’t remind me of my medication yet, but I do need her to. Sometimes I forget, so we will be working on that.”
Between their chemistry and determination, the sky is the limit for the pair. Erica is beyond thankful for Healing4Heroes™ and their resources that have helped her get to where she is today. The organization as well as Lani have changed her life for the better, and Erica hopes to see the same for others.
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.