My name is David. I do not write this with any delusions of self-importance. Nor am I eliciting your pity. I am writing this because I am profoundly grateful for the kindness shown me by Carol and Chris with their gift of Scout, my guardian angel. To fully comprehend my testimony you will have to understand what my life was like before I was paired with Scout. To accomplish this, I will share some excerpts from my journal:
(Excerpt from journal from the past): I can’t sleep. It is more accurate to say that I rarely sleep longer than an hour or two, and that I am afraid to sleep. Furthermore, I’m afraid to take the pain medicine and I am equally afraid not to take the pain medicine. If I do not take the pain medicine then the pain becomes so great I think I’m going to have a heart attack. With this my anxiety goes wild and results in a panic attack. On the other hand, if I take the pain medication the pain becomes more tolerable. However, I get a strong feeling of being out of control and not being able to defend myself. I can’t stand that feeling, and this fear increases my anxiety and again often results in a panic attack.
I am ashamed. I am a 47-year-old man with a doctorate degree and I hide in my closet to escape my fears. I can’t relax. I can’t win. I can’t take much more. If it were not for going to hell and the pain it would cause my family I would be dead. Please tell me that this isn’t it, that this isn’t everything. Instead of getting better I feel like I am getting worse; losing ground, no matter how hard I try.
It is painful for me to recall how arrogant I was before the accident. I did not appreciate my life as much as I should have or could have and now it seems I can’t. What is so difficult is that my family, friends, and peers can’t experience with their senses the inordinate and searing pain, the horrifying dreams, the crippling anxiety/depression, and the frequent blinding phantom lights. I know the deformity caused by the loss of my left eye gives them some insight into what I experience every day, but that is merely a glimpse.
What did you do wrong? What did you do to deserve this?
Although I am still on a roller coaster ride with my pain, it is not the same. I now have a Guardian Angel named Scout to help me on my journey back to living life instead of merely existing. Since meeting Scout, I have made significant progress with my chronic symptoms. Scout is not my pet. Yes, he is a loyal and loving companion, but when he is working he is an amazing living medical assistive device. My chronic PTSD had emasculated me. Being paired with Scout has given me back a sense of Independence and now words like pride, strength, hope, and future are beginning to have meaning again. For the first time in two years I am able to participate in activities outside of the home without having to have my wife with me.
Scout has reduced my anxiety and my dependence on medications. I still have frequent “Bad” days, however with Scout I feel better prepared to manage them. He makes me feel safe. I am able to sleep now sometimes as long as four to five hours at a time. After a nightmare I am usually in a state of panic. He is able to ground me by performing specific tasks. The regimented required activities and constant evolution of our training has helped my depression by increasing my physical activity. Scout’s needs require me to leave my bedroom and my house and this reinforces my ability to leave these areas. Furthermore, Scout provides proprioceptive feedback, touching or leaning on my leg, which improves my balance especially in unfamiliar surroundings. This helps compensate for my loss of visual acuity.
Medical service dogs, like Scout, are an out-of-the-box solution to a plethora of symptoms faced by millions of people in America today. Can you imagine having access to a cane that can read your emotional state or alert for seizures? Can you imagine a medication bottle that can walk to you when you are unable to retrieve it yourself, or even call 911? I can now after meeting Carol and Chris as well as approximately 20 other medical service dogs paired to some equally amazing disabled individuals. These animals have virtually limitless potential to help countless men, women, and children regain some or all of their independence. My experience with Scout has led me to believe that medical service dogs are a morbidly underrated and underutilized resource.
Scout has my back on a journey we have only just begun. He doesn’t see the fat, deformed, weak, and sad man that I often see in the mirror. He sees the man I want to be and my potential to become that man. My family and Scout are the vessels which God uses to give me the gift of hope. I am grateful. I am blessed.