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How assistance dogs help veterans with PTSD

Shaun’s story

Veteran Terry explains how his PTSD assistance dog helps support him

To awake from a nightmare frightened, sweating and disorientated in the dark, It is not thirty years ago, of trying to help wounded friends or of being on a heightened state of alert, even sleeping with your rifle, twenty-four-seven for four months but for you it is and so very real you can smell it.

I was deployed to Northern Ireland two days after my 18th birthday in 1977, I wrote my will when I was 17, I didn’t have anything to leave. At the time we joked about it and at the vultures from local solicitors, you’re young, invincible but when you are 58 and the fear grips you in the night it’s not funny anymore. Some nightmares are just dreams now as I have had them so often but sometimes a bad one will wake me.

Terry in Northern Ireland

I wake with a start not because of the dream, there is a weight on my chest and warm breath on my face, I open my eyes and am brought back to the present by the now familiar outline with pointy ears laid on my chest, paws either side of my head. Bella the princess, who looks like a wolf, just doing her job. My heart rate slows and returns to normal and my fears abate as I stroke her soft fur thankful for her constant presence not for the first time nor the last.

She has been my constant companion for nearly a year now and she ensures I get through each day and night, always on duty even when at play or asleep, if she ever fully sleeps because she always seems to be there when I need her, even before I know it myself. I can now return to sleep which is something I could not do before she came along.

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If you are a veteran and are in need of support, a range of help and information is available from all our Veterans’ Gateway referral partners.

Call 0808 802 1212 or text 81212

  • Royal British Legion
  • Poppy Scotland
  • SSAFA - The Armed Forces Charity
  • Combat Stress
  • Connect Assist
  • Armed Forces Covenant