When I first met him, I knew this was going to be a challenge. Spending the last ten years isolated in chaos, PTSD ruled everything. Unable to live in the moment, so disconnected from your body and brain, just being a passenger on a roller coaster riding through hell. Severe socialization issues, unable to feel anything but numbness or anger, hyper-vigilant and living in survival mode. Life was anything but.
I remember that very moment when we first met. When that leash was handed over, I knew this was going to be life changing, I knew this was going to be the key to a long journey of attempted recovery, I knew I was going to change his life. I heard how bad it was for him. I heard other attempts of rescue were unsuccessful so I was being called in. I have been training so hard these last 4 months specifically for him, he looked scared, nervous and very unsure. I could feel the suffering radiating from my new owner so I put my paw on his foot and leaned in while wagging my tail and looking up into his eyes. Don't worry Dad; My name is Dragoon and I'm here to save your life.
The first weeks were quite the learning curve for both of us. He is very sad and angry a lot and I can also smell something that's not quite right with him. He has moments of suddenly stopping and staring off in the distance and this smell becomes so intense. I could tell that my new mission was going to be a tough one. I am busy a lot but Dad doesn't quite understand what I'm trying to do. I know he is anxious in crowds, so I make sure that he has lots of space around him. He always has his back to a wall so I make sure I'm always watching his six, he doesn't even need to tell me to. I started leaning on him and whining whenever I smell that weird smell. It seems to help somewhat but I feel I should start jumping up on him to paw his face back to earth. He doesn't sleep much so I'm always busy and his nights terrors make him sleep walk and do crazy things. I need to stop that from happening so I started waking him up if he stirs and jumping on him to give him comfort. When he is sad or angry I instantly go to him and put my head in his hands to cheer him up, I don't like Dad being upset. He doesn't like to leave the house but I make him go out and get some fresh air. He also doesn't talk to people much but I have been initiating conversations for him, my Dad really needs to socialize. And oh my, how often I have to find his lost keys.1 year later and boy how things have changed. My dad doesn't really have nightmares anymore and when he does I'm right there. In the morning when the alarm goes off I wake him up and get ready for the day. He smiles so much more and actually laughs a lot now. He doesn't isolate himself like he did and he is less anxious and I even helped him go back to college and graduate on the Deans list. A feat that would not have been possible without my help. In classes I keep him grounded and made him able to be in crowds and around loud noises and people. We worked together and got him off his meds, which made him feel worse anyway, he spends less time dissociated and his flashbacks have calmed down. He has a thirst for life again, which he lost for 9 long years. We dance together daily and celebrate life instead of just surviving through it. I'm only two now and I know our journey is still going to be a long one with many more challenges along the way. But when I look up at my Dad and he grabs my tooth and pulls (my favorite game) while smiling and laughing, loving his moment I know we will get through it together. Like I told you I would Dad, I saved your life
Paws Fur Thought would like to give a huge shout out to Wounded Warriors Canada, whose support and donations make pairings like Dragoon and his handler possible.