Adopted Service Dog Gives Veteran the Confidence to Get a Fresh Start

Harry the service dog helps Billy down the path to a happy, healthy life.

Billy + Harry

A service dog named Harry restores veteran Billy’s faith in a happy life — and the power of a forever friendship.

"Harry and I learn something new about each other every day. I’m able to be in public again, and to feel at ease because he is always by my side."

My name is Billy Gibson and Coco’s Cupboard saved my life. Through my six years in the Navy, I helped so many people around the globe. I loved my job but after years of putting others’ needs above my own, I crashed. I decided to put my life first and receive help.

In 2019, I started receiving treatments and therapy and I thought I’d succeeded. Leaving the military was supposed to be my fresh start in life, but it didn’t feel right. My depression, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and anxiety overwhelmed me, and I was on the verge of giving up. I was having mental breakdowns and suicidal thoughts I couldn’t control. I reached out to many organizations pleading for help, and I opened my heart to everyone I contacted. I told them that I was lost in this world and needed a friend. Every thread ended with how much their services cost. I had no money but didn’t stop looking for help.

I had lost all hope, and then one single email changed my life. Suzanne from Coco’s Cupboard responded to me, then a few days later I met with her and we talked about a service dog. Suzanne told me everything would be okay, and that they would make this work for me. That day I cried, because for the first time I felt supported.

A few days later I went to meet Harry, my new partner in crime. This was the best day of my life. Suzanne’s staff were so kind to me, and I really felt like I was family. Working with Suzanne has given me the confidence to be myself and trust that everything will be okay. Harry and I learn something new about each other every day. I’m able to be in public again, and to feel at ease because he is always by my side. In the beginning of our training sessions I was extremely shy and very nervous. I remember watching Suzanne speak and being so impressed with her knowledge of training service dogs. At one point she looked at me and introduced me to the group. She told everyone I was a veteran, and this was a new journey for me. She introduced me to other veterans and at that moment I realized how much she really cares about every single person in her organization.

Harry and I have a long way to go, but with Coco’s Cupboard I have faith that I can find my happiness in life alongside my new best friend. Suzanne’s organization is like no other. I wish I could find the words to express how much gratitude I have for them. I’m able to lay my head down alongside Harry’s at night and know that I’m on the path of finding my happiness.

Each year, the Petco Foundation Holiday Wishes campaign invites adopters to share stories of how their pets have changed their lives to give the organizations that they’ve adopted from the chance to receive grant awards. This story by Billy won Coco’s Cupboard, Inc. in Molena, Georgia a 2020 Holiday Wishes award.