“Ryan has a good heart! I met him via the VA as he was giving a talk to the Vets with PTSD and substance abuse issues. I was drinking to numb my pain, and my life was spiraling down. Ryan helped me to understand the importance of self-care. He said if I could take care of myself and get sober, he would help train me and my shelter dog, Sazzy, to become a service dog. (She's an American Staffordshire, Lab, Boxer mix).
Before, Sazzy, I was so lonely and ashamed of my anxiety and fears and had no way of alleviating them. (It took me 10 yrs before I could muster up the courage to ask for help). Even when I got Sazzy, Ryan was instrumental in helping me to see how I was transferring all of my panic and anxiety onto Sazzy when in public; which kept her in a state of anxiety and defensiveness. Ryan trained me to stay calm in public so she would no longer feed off my negativity. He trained and transformed us together and truly changed my life. Dogs are so empathetic and Ryan was there for me every step of the way. After 3.5 years of training with Ryan, my life is so different. While he is a tough trainer with excellent standards, his heart is huge and he will drop everything to be there for me when I need him. Sazzy gives me constant affection, protection, and unconditional love.
I went into the U.S. Army because I came from a poor family and there were no funds to pay for college. I started out in the National Guard and then went into a Military Intelligence unit and then trained in Counterintelligence and was sent off to Iraq in 2004. It was a very scary time to be there as we were ambushed by Car and Suicide Bombers and kept constantly on edge from rockets being shot onto our base…all day long. My job was going off base and getting intel on where the enemy was and what they were up to. Baghdad was dreadful as they had Snipers everywhere firing at our Humvee, keeping my adrenalin on a constant high and in a state of hypervigilance. Seeing my fellow soldiers blown up in front of me from chlorine gas bombs was heart-wrenching and scary, and I could not get those images out of my mind.
One night, I got intel on a terrorist building weapons and had to go to his house. I was met by a 2” thick steel door, and a guy getting ready to jump out of his back window. We had to quickly blow the lock on his steel door, not knowing he had left his entire family in the house screaming from fear as he ran away and left them to fend for themselves. Seeing his little girl injured and his family trained to take a hit for him was deplorable. It left me with anger and guilt, and no way to make sense of it all.
Then, I was sent down the worst street of all “Haifa St” known for having the most Snipers and being the place where hundreds of U.S. Soldiers lost their lives. My head was like a swivel, constantly searching around for snipers and pacing to stay alive.
Just when I thought it couldn’t get any worse, I had to go on “Route Irish” a road that was famous for having bombs buried under the roads. As I drove it, I saw all the craters from previous explosions and lives lost and prayed I would survive it. Fortunately, I did.
I don’t think people understand what we had to live through, and witness, and how badly it damages us. We get discarded when we return, we don’t know how to reintegrate back into being a father, husband, or friend, and I was so ashamed that it kept me from getting the help I so desperately needed. Instead, I watched my life and my family, disintegrate and lose hope… for 10 yrs! I was drinking my pain away, in a constant state of anxiety, ruining my marriage, and I bottled everything up inside.
So, were it not for Ryan and Semper Fi Service Dogs and the love and help from my shelter/service dog, Sazzy, I would not have transformed my life, gotten help, opened up in groups, shared my story, and gotten sober.
Because of a shelter dog and a Marine with a big heart, I have my life back.”
~ Jack Lord- U.S. Army