Meet Jim, a 13 Bravo E-5 Sergeant who went from blacking out during panic attacks, to living a whole new life. His story all began after he left the Army. He struggles with intense PTSD symptoms all hours of the day. Whether it was breaking out in panic attacks, to unbearable nightmares. Before having his first dog, Sasha, a Belgian Malinois, two years ago, Jim felt there was no escape to the nightmare his life seemed like.
He first heard about Healing4Heroes™ through the organization Combat Veterans Motorcycle Association, CVMA. Going on three years ago, the CVMA had an event in which Piper and others from the H4H team met up there. At the event, Piper saw how bad Jim was with his anxiety and panic attacks. She ended up talking to his wife, and said he needed to fill out an application and she would get him in because he needed it, badly.
The first couple weeks in July, Jim was not doing well at all. His built up anxiety was getting the best of him. On the first training day, which is considered match day for the vets. Jim was sitting in the corner having a panic attack, he was twitching, shaking, and had sweat through all his clothes.
“They were showing the dogs, and once it was time to choose a dog, Sasha came over to me, looked me in the eyes, licked my face, put her head on my boot, and everything stopped. All the anxiety melted away, all the fear of something bad happening melted away, right then and there that is when everyone knew she was for me.”
“The first day I got Sasha, all the problems faded away. There are people who say the dog chooses them, and with both my dogs that is exactly how it was.”
Before having Sasha, Jim could never leave the house unless he was with his wife. When he rarely did, it was only very short errands. Going anywhere like Walmart or Lowes, previous to his dogs, was a disaster. Before having any service dogs, Jim was unemployed because he couldn’t get through a day of work without his anxiety and panic attacks breaking out.
Sasha was Jim’s first dog. He recently got his second service dog Luke, a Shepard Husky mix, in November 2018. It all started in August 2018, when Jim and his wife were at a H4H charity event, where Jim was sharing his story. His wife had left, and took Sasha with her. Jim broke out into a panic attack, and was on the edge, about to black out, and that is when Luke was brought over. Luke licked his face, and put pressure on him, something he hadn’t done for anyone else.
Later, in November that same year, Jim was volunteering at a H4H training class where it was match day. He was walking Luke around, showing him for someone else to pick. After the choosing process was over, nobody had chosen him, so Jim took him home to make sure he got along with Sasha, and it worked out.
Now having two dogs, Luke works as the daytime dog, and Sasha works as the nighttime dog. They both know the same tasks, but Luke is the daytime dog because he is bigger, and is able to help Jim with mobility issues. Jim has compression fractures in his back along with bulging disks, he also has had two knee surgeries. Because of this, it is difficult for Jim to walk up and down the stairs and pick things up off the floor, so he uses Luke as a brace. This way he doesn’t need a cane, he uses his dogs as help.
Sasha is able to help in some of the same ways for mobility, but because she is lighter, when Jim tries to hold onto her vest, specifically, going down the stairs, she isn’t as stable. During the nights, Sasha comforts Jim and helps him through his nightmares, but if he has had a couple weeks of pretty good nights, he will swap the dogs roles so that Sasha gets some time out of the house.
Right off the bat, Sasha and Luke have gotten along, but bringing Luke in did give Sasha some of her own anxiety. She was used to being with Jim all hours of the day, so when Jim would go off without her, she would be concerned about Jim, and even gave herself some bald spots. The trio is slowly starting to get used to their new roles, as Sasha learns to understand Luke has Jim’s back too.
Since having the dogs, it has taken a huge load off of his wife. She previously had to do everything; she made sure he was okay, woke him up from nightmares, helped him down the stairs, etc. Now, she is able to focus on their two sons, and can be a partner to Jim instead of a caregiver 24/7.
Besides Sasha and Luke, Jim’s family has two other medium-large dogs. Since having two service dogs, all the animals of the house are learning to get along, even if they didn't at first.
“It is a crazy household, but we make it work.”
When Sasha is home without Jim, she is starting to check up on his wife and kids, to make sure they’re all right as well. Jim is constantly amazed by the intuition his service animals have. He knows these dogs add value and a better quality of life to the people that need them, like himself; which is why over the last two years both him and his wife go and volunteer at every training session possible. They want to pay it forward for all that Healing4Heroes™ has done to help them, and see how others can be helped in the same way.
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.