Allessandra + Kota
After retiring from service, Navy Veteran Alessandra was struggling with PTSD related symptoms and was having a hard time trusting people and leaving the house. “I wanted my life back,” said Alessandra. “I thought a service dog could help in terms of companionship or diversion.”
"He’s given me my independence, my life back."
In an effort to regain her independence, Alessandra called Veterans Assistance Dogs of Texas in tears, hopeful that a service dog would help. After a home visit to assess her needs, Alessandra was paired with service dog, Kota — a shelter dog from San Antonio, who was trained to help Alessandra with her day to day activities.
It wasn’t long before Alessandra and Kota established a bond that allows Kota to sense when Alessandra becomes tense and he reminds her that she’s not alone. “When I am too caught up in the negative, he nudges me and brings me back to the present with his beautiful black nose,” said Alessandra. “When I start to sink, Kota reminds me to keep going.”
About once every three months, Alessandra and Kota visit the VA Dogs of Texas headquarters in Kerrville for continuous training. It’s a unique advantage the organization offers Veterans and their service dogs long after they’ve been paired.
“One of our biggest jobs is teaching the Veteran not only to be a handler, but also to be a trainer,” said Paul Belcher, Alessandra and Kota’s instructor. “By becoming a team and establishing communication and trust, they both help each other.”
Now with Kota by her side, Alessandra has become more confident and his unconditional love has transformed her life. “I’ve gone back to school, I take care of my son, I volunteer, he’s helped me cope with my divorce, I owe it all to Kota,” said Alessandra.
“I’m very grateful. I think that if there’s a Veteran out there struggling, I recommend facing the fear, asking for help, and getting a service dog.”
Every October, the Petco Foundation supports the incredible work of service, therapy, and other working animals who save and improve the lives of hundreds of thousands of people. Donate today to support Helping Heroes like Kota.