IRMO, S.C. (WIS) - There's no question a service dog and its handler share a special bond.
Ricardo Reyes is a South Carolina veteran who said he's on the path to getting back to a normal life, thanks to his new service dog, Rucker.
“He’s my buddy,” Reyes said. “He’s my battle buddy and he goes everywhere.”
Reyes has been a veteran for over 20 years. He served in both the U.S Marine Corps and the U.S Army.
“When I came home from my last deployment in 2004, I didn’t think that I was gonna be impacted the way I was impacted for what we went through and what I saw and what I experienced in my career.,” Reyes said.
He medically retired in December 2016 out of Fort Jackson.
“I was diagnosed with PTSD, traumatic brain injury, anxiety, and depression,” Reyes said.
He said he was in denial about his condition until five years after he returned from Afghanistan.
“I finally got tired of the nightmares, the sleepless nights, the cold sweats. In 2009 is when I started asking for help,” Reyes said.
Now, Reyes has found a new leash on life - all thanks to an organization called K9 For Warriors, an organization dedicated to providing service canines to warriors suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, Traumatic Brain Injury, and/or Military Sexual Trauma as a result of military service post-9/11.
“They called me up for an early course, an early class and I jumped on it right away,” Reyes said.
Reyes went through a three-week training course with Rucker. It was a start of a bond Reyes thought he would never have.
“He would sit and he would watch me laying down and he could tell whenever I was getting emotional, or getting upset, he would get up, and start licking my face and start jumping on me to give me a hug. And that’s the best thing that’s happened to me since I’ve had him,” Reyes said. “He’s helping me get out of my house, get out of my head when I get to that dark place, calms me down, and I love him for it.”
Reyes said he’d like his story to serve as an example for other veterans to get the help they may need.
As of June 2019, K9s For Warriors has graduated 551 warrior-canine teams and rescued over 1,000 dogs. The majority of the dogs trained in the program come from rescue shelters or are owner-surrendered.
According to K9s For Warriors:
- At least 20 veterans who served post-9/11 commit suicide daily
- Roughly 20% of post-9/11 veterans suffer from PTSD – that’s over 700,000 veterans
- Service members suffering from PTSD are at a higher risk for suicide
- Around 700,000 dogs are euthanized in shelters every year. Many of these are wonderful dogs who can be trained as service dogs for veterans in need.
For more information about how to apply, or donate to the nonprofit organization visit their website by clicking here.