My name is Michael Cantley, I am a veteran of both the Iraq and Afghanistan campaigns. Like a lot of veterans I have struggled with my transition back to civilian life, in fact you might could say it’s been like I never came home. They threw words at me like PTSD and TBI, all I knew was that I felt like a stranger in my own country, I just couldn’t relate to 99% of the American public. After a couple of months removed from my first tour I began having panic attacks. I didn’t know what was happening, a number of us ended up in the ER certain we were having heart attacks. For most of us it was nothing but for the vast majority of us the panic remained. During those days nobody did much or offered much help, they were just as lost as we were. It is human nature to seek relief from pain, Irish whiskey was my way of coping. I hated going out in crowds, I was constantly on guard so I just stopped going out except for work as much as I could. There seems to always be a next surprise: flashbacks, nightmares, outbursts.
I had just got out of the hospital when I saw one of the guys from my unit with a Paws of War service dog. A rescued pet rescuing a combat vet, I contacted the organization and was paired with my dream dog. He has opened up so many feelings, I want to get out and do things, he helps me break the ice with people, he makes people feel at ease so we can get past the PTSD stigma. I still feel bad at times but it’s hard to dwell on it with a face like that.
The Paws of War Program has helped my family and I more than I could ever imagine. Although I was never able to serve overseas or in combat; I was faced with many unforeseen hurdles while in the service. I was medically separated and left with nothing except for a shell of a woman I used to know. After the military, I tried to lead a normal life but couldn’t. Although I had a boyfriend (who would later become my husband) who went to great lengths to make me happy, I was desolate and traumatized by my experiences in the service and needed help outside of what the VA, my friends, or family could give me.
I grew up with dogs and knew how happy they made me as a child. I had a Doctor suggest I find an organization to help me obtain a service animal. I asked a veteran and he mentioned Guardians of Rescue- Paws of War Program. I felt silly at first because as I mentioned before I was never in combat, but I was encouraged by my family and boyfriend to look into it. I wrote in to the organization and received a call the very next day from the President, Rob Misseri. I told him my story and that I would love to rescue a dog from a shelter who would be trained to be my service dog. Then, a month later Rob called me and said he had not one, but two dogs who were handed over to the shelter and needed someone to rescue them! At first, I thought I was being a little selfish to other vets by taking two dogs but it was explained to me that these were sisters who if separated one would be given to me and the other would be kept at a training center for months until fully trained. Dori Scofield, the Vice- President, cared for the pups at her own home until she flew with them from New York to my house in Florida.
I remember it like it was yesterday. Gypsy and Daphne arrived on a warm and sunny October morning. Dori, Lynne and the Paws of War Program brought two puppies into my life that would become two silly, sweet, and affectionate dogs and also my best friends. I truly believe my dogs were meant for me and although I still struggle with my illness on a daily basis-with just one lick on my face I forget about my worries. They sleep in my bed every night, I talk to them as if they could answer back, they nudge my face and lick my ear when I roll around on the ground with them, they steady my walk and keep me at ease when they are working, they were even part of my wedding as Dori walked them down the aisle as the honored guest.
What I would want anyone to know reading this is if you need help and think you would benefit from a companion please reach out to Paws of War.
There are no words I can say to express my gratitude for these blessings, the only thing I can do is help spread the word about this organization and love my dogs. Thank you to all the military members presently serving our country, thank you to all of the Veterans who have served, and thank you to organizations like Paws of War for working diligently in rescuing animals and humans alike. P.S. The whole time I wrote this I had one dog licking my toes and the other resting on my lap. This is the best medicine in the whole world.
I enlisted in the United States Army right out of high school in 2003. My MOS was 31B combat military police officer. I was in from September 2003- September 2008. I deployed with the 25th ID 25thMilitary Police Company in support of Operation Enduring Freedom in Ghazni Afghanistan. I got hurt on July 29, 2004 when my hummvv came under fire and we were breaking contact and hit a five foot ditch and I was thrown on top of my hummvv. I returned from Afghanistan in 2005 and redeployed in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom with the 25th ID 3rd brigade combat team in 2006 and returned after my 15th month deployment in 2007. I got out of the army in September 2008. I suffer from anxiety disorder, PTS, TBI, Seizure Disorder, Lower back problems, left hip problems and heart problems.
Known as SPC Randall Jernigan; from A battery, 4th Battalion 320th Field Artillery Regiment, 101st.Scott knows all too well the physical and psychological effects of war. Scott spent 4 years in the United States Army to protect our freedom, and in those 4 years…he lost his.
From continual battle ground combat, Scotts injuries to his shoulder and back have left him disabled. He has had three surgeries, now his fourth and most recent surgery has fused his shoulder permanently and he will never have use of it again. His right arm is forever immobile. Compiled with a fractured back, it leaves Scott on 8 different medications to alleviate his physical and emotional trauma.
Scott suffers from severe PTSD. Being in public triggers his PTSD and Scott has become a prisoner in his own home, as well as a victim of hyper-vigilence and sleep disorders.
That’s where Duchess comes in. Duchess was given up by her owners to a shelter, because they were moving and could not take her. This beautiful German Shepherd had the perfect temperament for Paws of War. After training, Duchess and Scott now live, work and enjoy life together.