PTSD service dogs give veterans life-saving friendship

Image 1 of 5

Leaders of a Bay Area organization believe they can help stop suicides among veterans with specially trained service dogs.

More than 200 veterans have been paired with dogs and provided instruction since Brooksville-based K9 Partners for Patriots was founded four years ago.

One of them, Vietnam veteran Jimmy Armstrong, says his service dog Molly has given him his life back.

"She's with me all the time, and I mean all the time," Armstrong said, adding he didn't leave his house for three years because of anxiety and PTSD until he got Molly. "I got out of the house because I had to get out to train her and I had to take care of her."

Mary Peter trained police and cadaver dogs before founding this organization. She said the goal is to prevent suicides and help veterans with PTSD live normal lives.

"Well over half our veterans are off their medications because of their service dog and there's no addiction or after effects," Peter said.

K9 Partners for Patriots was recently awarded funding from the Department of Defense for a study by researchers at USF.

She says the service dogs pick up the scent of elevated adrenalin and comfort their masters. In Armstrong's case, Molly places her head on his hand. It comforts him and shifts his focus.

They've been together for four months. Armstrong thinks of Molly as more than a service animal.

"That's what her main job is, but I love her to pieces," he said. "She's just the best thing that ever happened to me."