Adopted Dog Helps Survivor Feel Safe Again

After surviving a violent crime, Natalie gave Mugsy a second chance—and he gave her one, too.

Natalie + Mugsy

After surviving a violent crime, Natalie suffered from PTSD and depression. Then Mugsy the dog came along and helped Natalie heal.

"I was in the darkest place I’ve ever been. I didn’t see the light at the end of the tunnel until Last Chance Arkansas and Arkansas Paws in Prison brought Mugsy into my life."

My name is Natalie Johnson, and I’m a survivor of a violent crime. This is my story about a magnificent rescue dog named Mugsy who was given a second chance, and in turn, gave me one too.

Dog Helps Survivor Feel Safe Again

Twelve years ago, I was at work when a man held me at gunpoint and demanded money. I gave him all the money in the safe, but he assaulted and shot me anyway. I suffered severe head trauma and lost vision in my right eye, but most of all, I lost my courage and my sense of safety. I became paralyzed by fear, and couldn’t even leave my house. For years, I battled with PTSD, agoraphobia, and severe depression. I was in the darkest place I’ve ever been. I didn’t see the light at the end of the tunnel until Last Chance Arkansas and Arkansas Paws in Prison brought Mugsy into my life.

Dog Helps Survivor Feel Safe Again

The day I went to the prison to meet the dogs, I sat in the middle of a room and the inmates released one dog at a time. They let the dog pick you. As soon as they let Mugsy loose, he came bouncing over full of energy and overflowing with love. He ran right up to me and started licking my face. Everyone in the room could tell it was a match.

Dog Helps Survivor Feel Safe Again

Mugs and I have been together for almost five years, and he has quite literally saved my life. Because of him, I am able to lead a normal life again. I’m able to go grocery shopping and enjoy dining out with my family—simple everyday things that people take for granted, but before Mugsy, I could barely even check the mail. Now Mugs provides me with a sense of protection and safety. We slowly started going on walks and hiking, and now we make a point to go on some sort of adventure every day.

Adopted dog in court room

Mugsy is very smart and extremely well trained. When I give him the alert command, he knows to be on the lookout for anyone approaching us from behind. He nudges my leg with his nose to signal their presence so that I’m not startled. If I have an anxiety attack, Mugsy senses it. He puts his body very close to mine and nudges me to help me focus on him and not the anxiety. He continues that until it passes. I’m so proud of how well the inmates trained him.

Mugsy has truly changed my life. He helped me take my power back. I still struggle, but Mugsy’s love and strength give me courage. We do not take any day for granted. Mugsy and I love our journey, and we hope it’s a very long one!

Each year, the Petco Foundation invites adopters to share the story of how their adopted pet changed their lives during the annual Holiday Wishes campaign, giving the organization that they adopted from a chance to receive a grant award. This story by Natalie won Last Chance Arkansas in Arkansas a 2018 Holiday Wishes award.

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