During my service I was blown up a few times. As a result, I’ve had two strokes and an aneurysm. These ultimately led to my medical retirement. I loved my career, and I loved serving my country. A life of military service involves sacrifice, and I don’t regret it. But as a result, I have also lived through terrible experiences that have affected my long-term health. 

I have no obvious physical injuries, but the strokes were in my cerebellar region and have severely affected my balance and stability. I can’t really feel my feet, and I feel a bit like I’m floating sometimes. I also live with vertigo. On a scale of 1 to 10, the vertigo is between a 4 or 5 most of the time. All this makes it hard for me to walk in a straight line. I lean to the side if I don’t have support, so I experienced a lot of judgement.

People would assume that I was drunk. But that was before I got my service dog, Lox. I didn’t fully realize how difficult life was without him, until I had him. Lox is an extension of me. He’s well trained. He is there to support me when I need him. He picks up things I’ve dropped and stands by me when I’m recovering from a fainting episode. He helps me get up if I’ve fallen. He even interrupts my nightmares, which helps everyone in my family get more sleep.

But one of the most important things Lox does is take the fear away so I can live my life. Having Lox makes my invisible disabilities visible. He allows me to live in society without being judged. I was in one of the first classes held on the America’s VetDogs campus after the pandemic shutdown was lifted. Lox and I bonded quickly, and he rapidly came to trust me. He is very protective, and he rarely leaves my side. He takes his job very seriously.

I’m fortunate to live in Alaska and have beautiful nature all around me. I can see moose and bald eagles from the windows of my home. I can even take the occasional hike now that I have Lox. With Lox I’m just more confident and more active. I’ve even gone back to teaching nursing. I do often need to explain to people that Lox is a working dog and not a pet. Alaska is a very dog friendly state and people want to interact with him. As I explain to them, if he’s distracted, I’m in danger. I ask them to have respect for the work he does and for his dedication to my welfare. I don’t know where I’d be without him.

I went to war so that you, your family, and mine would be safe. My life changed as a result. The gifts you make to America’s VetDogs help ensure that veterans with disabilities can get the service dog they need, absolutely free of charge. By giving to America’s VetDogs you are showing your gratitude for their service and sacrifice. A service dog is a life-changing gift. Thank you for giving generously and for choosing to stand with America’s disabled veterans