Kurt Wise dedicated 15 years of his life serving in the Navy. Recently, his family urged him to seek help.
“A smell, a sign, anything can trigger an emotional breakdown, which is what happened to me,” Wise said.
Wise reached out to a Metro East organization called Got Your Six Service Dogs. It pairs veterans and first responders who have PTSD with service and therapy dogs. The Got Your Six team trains the dogs for one year, teaching basic obedience and service techniques.
At the end of the year, the dogs are matched with their new human companions. They spend several days together getting to know each other. The dogs learn to spot cues or triggers that can lead to anxiety.
Wise was paired with a Labrador retriever named Ben.
“If I start tapping my foot, he puts his paw on mine,” Wise said.
That interaction can remind the veteran to do something that can alleviate stress. Wise said he’s already noticed a change.
“I'm not as anxious,” Wise said. “I can walk into a building and not automatically get suspicious of everybody there.”
Nicole Lanahan, the executive director of Got Your Six, said the veterans with dogs report being happier and healthier.
“They've all reported an increase in sleep,” Lanahan said. “They've all reported an increase in the quality of their relationships with families and co-workers.”
As for Wise, he said he and Ben have already formed a bond.
“He is my bail out buddy,” Wise said. “Ben was picked for me and i was picked for Ben. I think it's a good match.”
It costs about $20,000 to train and feed each dog, but the service is free to veterans and first responders who are selected. The organization is able to help about six veterans a year.
For more information, visit them online.