My Pet World: Traumatized Vietnam Vet Credits Service Dog With Saving His Life
At what point is anecdotal evidence so overwhelming that it matches or exceeds scientific discoveries?
Carol Borden, executive director and founder of Guardian Angels Medical Services of Williston, FL, says her non-profit has paired about two dozen service dogs with military veterans with post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) since 2010. She says that in every instance the veteran has benefited. Other organizations echo the same experiences.
Ray Galmiche, 65, of Navarre, FL, served two and a half tours of duty in Vietnam. While in the combat zone, his PTSD symptoms were minimal, but they became increasing apparent after his retirement from the Army after 20 years of service. Among them were extreme nightmares accompanied by night sweats. Galmiche often suffered from sleep deprivation. When going out in public, which he rarely mustered the will to do, Galmiche felt overwhelmed and suffered panic attacks.
Even the simple act of driving a car became a challenge, and potentially dangerous. Galmiche's wife realized this after he had a flashback while at the wheel. Ray had no idea where he was. His mind was on a jungle battlefield, re-living a firefight from years before. Luckily, no one was injured.
Galmiche concedes that he began to push away from his family. "I was basically giving up," he says. "I just couldn't stand it anymore."
In desperation, not wanting to lose her husband, Ray's wife pursued partnering him with a service dog. "I didn't know or understand what a dog might to do help," says Galmiche. "Besides, I didn't think I deserved a dog."
Ray was paired with a German Shepherd named Dazzle. He tried to push the pup away. But some dogs just don't take no for an answer and Dazzle was determined to be Galmiche's best friend. "I just didn't have it in me, but Dazzle loved me anyway. I've never experienced anything like that," Ray recalls.
Galmiche didn't understand why the nightmares and night sweats disappeared, and he was simultaneously annoyed that Dazzle might awaken him in the middle of the night. He soon realized the dog wasn't being a pest; he was awakening Galmiche just as the horrible dreams began.
"Maybe it's my body chemistry, but Dazzle doesn't allow me to have those nightmares," Galmiche said. Today, Ray can sleep through the night.
Although Galmiche still has panic attacks, they're more infrequent and less severe. "I know Dazzle has my back," he says. "And if I get anxious, he knows it. He puts his head on my leg and I pet him. I think he enjoys it. And I begin to relax."