Service Dog Helps Veteran Find Peace and Security

Delta’s steady, reassuring presence brings Douglas back to the present — and helps him heal from the past.

Douglas + Delta

As a service dog, Delta helps Douglas by easing anxiety, providing constant companionship, and demonstrating the power of unconditional love.

"Delta focuses on everything I do, waiting for when he is needed next. I now have a companion with me 24/7 who is always focused on me. It's so nice having him in my life now. It is so hard to put into words and express how much he has changed my life."

Dust clears the cabin inside the Special Operations Blackhawk helicopter, just seconds before we were at a 100’ hover engaging the enemy vehicle with mini guns and small arms weapons systems. Confusion, extreme pain, disorientation, gunpowder, oil, explosions, gunfire, yelling, and the heavy smell of jet fuel fill my cranial nerves, overwhelming my senses. I look over my left shoulder and there with his head sticking out the back window of a white Ram 3500 work truck is Delta, eagerly attempting to gain my attention. 

Flashback again! Why does this keep happening? I look around to ensure no one is looking at me. Did I yell this time? Was I on the ground in the fetal position next to the diesel gas pumps? Do my legs work? Did that just happen? Deep breaths, I tell myself. It’s okay; calm down. What was that? Oh … it’s Delta. I let go of the death grip I have on the diesel pump handle, reach for Delta’s neck, and give him the command “hug.” 

Life started to change for me that day. It was a spring morning in northwestern Tennessee in farm country. Just two weeks prior, I had left Florida with my new best friend Delta: a 65-pound white Golden Retriever/German Shepherd mix service dog. I was at the fuel pumps that morning, and for the first time I was able to work with Delta to help me calm down after a flashback. Delta was there for me when I needed comfort, when I needed reality, and when I needed to take a deep breath.

It’s been six months since that morning in early spring. As I type, Delta is below my feet and looks as if he is asleep; in reality he is listening to the sounds of the keys as I type and my body movements in the chair. Delta focuses on everything I do, waiting for when he is needed next. I now have a companion with me 24/7 who is always focused on me. It’s so nice having him in my life now. It is so hard to put into words and express how much he has changed my life. I wish you could feel the comfort I have when I walk out the front door of my house, and on my left leg Delta’s walking with me one step at a time, ensuring he has contact with me. Delta is like my sixth sense; he knows before I do when my anxiety is rising. Delta knows when I get frustrated in the car and puts his head on my shoulder for comfort. Delta is by my side, willing to be there for me when I have a flashback, discomfort, anxiety, or fear. Most importantly, Delta brings a smile to my face, and for the first time in several years I have an emotional feeling other than anger: security!

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 Douglas won Furry Friends Adoption, Clinic & Ranch in Jupiter, Florida a 2020 Holiday Wishes award.