Ty and Cody Bear
At the age of 39, Marine Lt. Col. Ty was struck by a sniper’s bullet directed from a mountainside in Afghanistan. As he was lying on the roadside, all he could think of was death and love for his family. While he would survive, the bullet wreaked havoc inside his brain leaving him unable to speak and totally paralyzed. Through years of grueling therapy, he would regain his speech and partial use of his left hand and leg. Later, Colonel Edwards would become the first recipient of a PAWS trained service dog.
Colonel Edwards has fought tirelessly to regain his strength and independence. Cody has been by Ty’s side during countless hours of speech therapy and grueling physical therapy. Cody Bear now helps his friend by opening cabinets, flipping light switches, picking up the telephone, and with countless other small tasks that have helped Ty regain his independence.
With the confidence that Cody has brought him, Ty completed a 5K wheelchair race, with Cody by his side the whole way. Says Ty about his PAWS service dog and partner: “I didn’t realize what a difference he would make in my life”.
Kenny and Knight Kenny served in the US Air Force for 13 years in anti-terrorism units, conducting helicopter insertions against armed hostiles. His career specialty was as a radiation incidents first responder, stopping terrorists from coming into the US with dirty bombs. He didn’t realize how it all affected him until he started having flashbacks, nightmares, difficulty sleeping and feelings of guilt, depression and fear.
Prescription drugs and pharmaceuticals had little impact when it came to treatment of post-traumatic stress and hopelessness seeped in. Then Kenny was introduced to Knight.
“Many of the heroes I know have two legs, but mine has four. Knight is my new battle partner, walking through life defeating one enemy at a time – depression, anxiety, anger, seizures and more. I don’t believe it’s by chance that DOG spelled backward is God! Knight changed my life!”
Christian and Ivan
Christian is a Marine who served our country in Kuwait during the first Gulf War. During his last deployment he suffered a traumatic brain hemorrhage and injury. After a yearlong coma, a three year struggle to learn to speak again and eight years to learn to walk again, Christian’s main goal is to live as autonomously as possible.
PAWS Assistance Dogs recognized that a service dog would help Christian meet that goal and partnered him with Ivan, one of our most highly skilled physical assistance dogs. Because of Christian’s fragile condition he is unable to travel. PAWS stepped up and over the course of three months all team training was conducted at Christian’s home on Santa Maria Island.
The bond that has formed between Christian and Ivan is profound; the assistance and support Ivan provides Christian is life-changing. PAWS continues to support Christian and Ivan with ongoing training in their environment that is so essential to their success as partners.
Joe and Zelda
Joe retired as an 18 year USAF MSGT after serving American interests all over the world including Afghanistan, Iraq, and Africa. But after his honorable discharge Joe noticed changes in himself that made it difficult to live a happy and healthy life with his family. After struggling with debilitating PTSD for years he reached out for help in the form of a partnership with a PAWS service dog.
Zelda was introduced to Joe and there was such a connection that it didn’t take long for both to know Zelda was going to be his PAWS canine partner. The bond Joe now holds with Zelda has transformed his life. Where he had once isolated himself, today with Zelda’s loving care and support he is integrating back into a fulfilling life and healing past traumas.
“Zelda has been there in the darkest of times. Even when PTSD takes a toll and I consider suicide. She reminds me about how much love there is in our home and how much they rely on me.”
Reid and Melton
Reid is a 9 year Army veteran who served from 2006 to 2014 as a member of the 178th Airborne Division. He saw heavy combat in Afghanistan and suffered multiple injuries while deployed. Reid struggles daily to cope with severe PTSD, mobility issues, and random episodes of excruciating pain and discomfort.
Reid’s PTSD made it almost impossible to relate to our civilian society. He’d lost a sense of purpose after leaving the military. He was trapped at home thinking only about the past things he’d been through and the things that he’d done.
Melton has made a massive impact in Reid’s and his family’s lives. “Having Melton gives me another sense of purpose again and it feels great. He just helps me not think about all the people around me; I don’t do well with groups at all, he keeps me focused on him so I can get out more, and that’s priceless.”
Edwin proudly served his country in the US Marine Corp for 13 years but when he returned home from the Middle East, the battle was far from over. Ravaged by Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) Edwin shared that he …”felt defeated and alone in the world and was always looking over my shoulders
thinking that I was back in the war. I was skeptical of everyone and everything and always wondering why people would just want to be around me.” Named by a group of Kindergarten students, Biscuit would make Edwin’s battle easier. “Since Biscuit has come into my life it was like a switch came on and something has changed in me…I am finally going out and talking to strangers and enjoying my conversations. Biscuit has given me the confidence to live the life I always dreamed of.” Shortly after receiving Biscuit, Edwin found the strength and courage to complete the transition from military life to civilian life. Now a graduate of the International Academy of Design and Technology and Full Sail University, Edwin is traveling the world with Biscuit by his side as he prepares to launch a new career in his chosen field.
Will and Al
Will received a PTSD diagnosis that followed him home after his years of service as a MOS Marine. The symptoms were so severe they kept him isolated from his community, avoiding even small groups of people in public.
Will is married to Nicole and they have an adopted daughter. Nicole, also a veteran, is incredibly supportive. But even though he had the incredibly strong support of his wife and love of his family the PTSD was even affecting his special relationship with them.
With the help of PAWS dog Big Al Will has begun to relearn and trust his ability to be a part of his family, in their whole lives, not just behind closed doors. “The biggest hurdle for me to get over was to be in public with a lot of people around. Al has actually allowed me to get out more, I’ve been a part of things that normally I wouldn’t have just in the time he and I have been a team”.
Joe lost his leg in Iraq. Along with facing difficulty in balance and mobility, there were other problems imposed upon him mentally and emotionally. However, once Joe met Chico, limitations that seemed insurmountable turned into limitless opportunities. Joe found his passion in comedy and motivational speaking. With Chico by his side, he inspires and makes people laugh across the country. “I couldn’t image how much and how quickly Chico has helped me to negotiate pain, either by activity or just distracting me from my pain. He is an incredible part of my life and I’m so happy to have him.”
Mike proudly served in the US Marine Corp where he exemplified the courage, honor and commitment that is a hallmark of a Marine. When we first met Mike, we were impressed by his ability to overcome a tragic accident that caused the loss of his left eye and left him with a Traumatic Brain Injury. The injury creates many challenges for Mike including balance problems, short term memory loss and some loss of gross motor skills. Pumpkin’s job is to help alleviate Mike’s symptoms and she completes her tasks with the utmost care for Mike. According to his parents, “Mike has received something he has not had since he sustained his injury: a best friend who loves him unconditionally. Pumpkin is always there for him and brings him more joy and happiness than he has had in a long time. She has brought a new dimension to Mike’s life and has made a tremendous difference in so many ways.”
Javier enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corp in 2004. In 2005 he was assigned to the 1st Battalion 8th Marines Weapons Company. By 2009 he had served multiple deployments in various units, serving in the most dangerous areas of Lebanon, Iraq and Bahrain. Now living in Tampa with his family and PAWS service dog Lola, Javier said: “Before I received Lola, social situations were impossible settings for me. I had isolated myself and my family. Oftentimes, I scan the bushes, the shadows, watching every corner for approaching danger. Lola, my trained service dog keeps me calm by giving me her paw or putting her head in my lap as if she is telling me ‘ Hey, I’m here and we’re going to be ok.’ My life has changed for the better and now I feel like a capable husband and father and am able to attend my daughters’ activities. I could never thank the PAWS team enough for all they’ve done for me and my family.”