As we’ve covered before in GRAVITAS (see our Southeastern Guide Dogs “Community” piece in the 2016 Anniversary issue), canine companions are able to assist veterans who suffer from PTSD or other traumas resulting from military service. These furry companions are invaluable to our military heroes when it’s time for them to return to civilian life.
Benjamin Stepp, an Iraq war veteran, made the decision to adopt a retriever named Arleigh after falling victim to the effects of a traumatic brain injury and enduring several surgeries on his ankle. He was a changed man when he returned home—irritable and angry all the time.
Arleigh is a prime example that dogs are remarkably in tune with humans and can sense and respond to our emotions. Empathetic of Stepp, Arleigh signals him to begin his breathing exercises whenever she senses him entering an agitated state. Stepp’s four-legged pal will grab her owner’s attention by placing a paw on his foot, her head in his lap or paws on his shoulders.
Since Stepp adopted Arleigh two years ago, he is less dependent on his medication and can get by most days solely with the help of his pet. He cannot imagine his life without Arleigh and if she could speak, she would no doubt say the same.
These amazing animals really are man’s best friend—they are loyal, affectionate and known to improve our physical and mental health. In these kinds of relationships, it’s difficult to tell who has rescued whom. In this particular case, Arleigh has found a loving home where she can offer a helping paw to a hero.