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How One Dog Rescued His Veteran Owner and Changed His Life

Mackenzie Freeman

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After experiencing or witnessing a life-threatening event, like a natural disaster, car accident, or combat, many people can have PTSD or post-traumatic stress disorder. Dan Lasko is one of those people.

Dan was deployed to Afghanistan in 2004 with Operation Enduring Freedom. While there, he was hit with an explosion that caused him to lose his left leg, which had to be amputated. He was honorably discharged and was able to go back home to his loving wife and children, but he wasn’t the same. He was afraid to leave the house, be around large crowds, and was always looking over his shoulder because he was afraid. He was suffering from PTSD, like many veterans do after coming home from war. According to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, of the veterans that served during Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom, 11-20% have PTSD. In the U.S. alone, over 8 million adults have PTSD in a given year. That’s a lot of people.

To help battle this mental illness, Dan got Wally, a black Labrador, with the help of America’s Vet Dogs. Vet Dogs is a New York charity that helps provide service dogs to veterans and first responders who have PTSD, seizures, physical injuries, and hearing and vision loss. Service dogs are specially trained to help its owner cope with day to day activities. For those suffering from PTSD, their service dogs are trained to patrol the perimeter of the room to help the vet feel safe when they enter, turn on lights to stop a nightmare, and blocking a person that may be coming too close to the veteran.

Studies have shown that interactions with dogs increase the stress-reducing hormone, oxytocin. An increase in oxytocin levels can help counteract feelings of paranoia, can improve trust, and can positively affect social skills. Dogs naturally create a nurturing response in people, and as a result, veterans with PTSD can begin to reconnect with people, when before they may have shut them out.

After having Wally in his life, Dan has said he has been able to heal and learned a lot. Wally taught him patience, loyalty, and how to be himself again. He no longer felt like he had to look over his shoulder wherever he went, and he was able to begin enjoying things that mattered to him with his family and friends.

Wally gave him a second chance, and he and his family decided to give a second chance and a loving home to Maggie, a rescue dog. Dan said that Wally took care of him when he needed it, so he wanted to return the favor. Maggie had a hard life and so did he. With the help of Wally, they could provide Maggie the same support he received and could be one big happy family.

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Animals

Fisherman Hero Helps a Much Larger New Friend

Leslie Tander

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While not the largest kind of whale in the world, humpback whales are huge and weigh several tons. Most people would love to watch them from afar to see them breaching the water, but actually getting close to them would be terrifying. 

Humpback whales were hunted almost to the point of extinction in the past, which caused rules to be put into place so they wouldn’t be killed deliberately anymore. Unfortunately, they still suffer at the hands of humans because they mistakenly eat plastic, collide with boats, or become entangled with fishing gear meant for other marine life.

Caught In a Buoy

Sam Synstelien and Nicholas Taron witnessed a humpback whale off the coast of California when they were out working. Commercial eel fishermen, they had never gotten that close to a whale before, but they knew they had to help.

The poor whale was clearly tangled in the rope and buoy and had no way to free itself. This problem was caused by humans and humans were there to be able to help.

Jumping Into the Ocean

They could easily see that the whale was having trouble, and that it was swimming in such a way that it was clearly trapped to something at the bottom. They called for help, but learned that no one offical would be able to come soon.

Sam and Nicholas decided to handle the problem as a team. Only one of them would be needed to cut the whale free, while one would stay on the boat for visual support and to help the other if needed. Sam jumped in, but his friend Nicholas watched and cheered him on the whole time. 

Caught On Cell Phone

When you watch the video captured by Nicholas, you can hear how excited he is. He calls out to his friend to “Cut it now!” and screams “Yeeaah!” when the line is finally cut.

Sam looks as though he is jumping without fear, but he is probably powered more by adrenaline. He gets the job done quickly, jumping directly onto the distressed whale’s back and working fast to locate and cut the line.

Experts Say “Don’t Try This Yourself”

According to experts, this was not the way the situation should have been handled. They believe that the whales are fine where they are for up to weeks, because they can still move and breathe and get food. Waiting for the Coast Guard, they say, was the real appropriate action here.

Even trained experts who understand the risks and are ready can get killed in such an operation, especially with such a large animal. Injuries could happen by accident, and the people who got hurt trying to help would not have assistance if they were hurt. They also pointed out that there is no way to know for sure that there wasn’t anything else tangled on the whale.

It Doesn’t Feel Wrong

Whatever the experts say, it doesn’t seem wrong to help an animal clearly in distress. As adult fisherman, Sam and Nicholas understood the risks and cared more about the comfort of their fellow creature than trying to do the safest thing. They called for help and when help wasn’t available, they stepped up and helped themselves.

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Animals

Sharing Retirement: A Service Dog and his Vet

Leslie Tander

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A soldier’s life is difficult, far from home with high demands, little sleep, and life-or-death stresses. But for two who were enlisted in the service together, this trying time became one of lasting peace.

Separated from Family

Just after his first daughter Chloe was born, Adam Wylie (a U.S. Air Force Sargeant) was deployed overseas to South Korea. It was a trying time for him. But one of the first comrades-in-arms he met on Osan Air Base helped him get through it – Emra, a 4-year old service dog. The Belgian Malinois helped him patrol the base in long 12-hour shifts.

Emra and Adam built a deep relationship, trusting each other with life and limb over those long shifts. Together, they processed security sweeps for U.S. officials and manned listening posts designed to spot enemy activity to the north. Adam likes to tell the story of Emra’s encounter with Vice President Joe Biden when he visited the base. She cleared the motorcade, then jumped into the front seat of the Vice President’s vehicle and kept accidently hitting the car horn. 

Events like that helped bring some much-needed levity and companionship to Adam’s life in a trying time. Emra became a friend, keeping him company in the absence of his wife and daughter. But when his shift ended and he returned home to the U.S., he had to leave Emra behind. 

Something Missing

Overjoyed to be reunited with his family, he still found himself feeling Emra’s absence keenly. “She was one of the longest working relationships I had,” Wiley told ABC news.

Emra and Wylie were both ready to retire from service at about the same time, three years after Adam Wylie returned from his deployment in Korea. Wylie planned to become a Security Specialist/K-9 handler for the U.S. State Department. Emra was beginning to feel her age and show some signs of arthritis, so the military made the decision that it was time to retire her.

American Humane is an organization that works to cover the cost and activities needed to bring retired service dogs home to the United States, in partnership with Crown Media Family Networks. American Humane worked to bring Emra home – and they just where her forever home should be.

Reunited Stateside

In April of 2017, the two were reunited. Adam was worried that Emra might not remember him – though they worked together longer than any other partner he had in the military, after a three year separation they’d been apart longer than they’d been together. 

But Emra was overjoyed to see him, obviously remembering her old friend. She nuzzled right up and licked his face, knowing her battle buddy immediately. 

A Forever Home

The Wylie family farm will be Emra’s home for the rest of her days. She has 4-year-old Chloe to play with and Wylie’s dad’s Jack Russell Terrier to keep her on her toes. 

The partnership bond seen in K-9 units can be powerful. The long hours, intense training in each other’s company, and the unique circumstances in which soldiers find themselves separated from friends and family and seeking new connection seems to result in a powerful bond between service dogs and their handlers. What a fitting end that for Emra and Adam, such a bond can be lasting. This unique friendship can support Adam during the transition to civilian life, and give Emra a loving home for the rest of her days. A fitting reward for a lifetime of loyal service – for both man and dog.

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Animals

6 Easy Tips to Keep Your Dog Calm During Fireworks

Mackenzie Freeman

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Most of us love the bright fireworks that light up the sky in celebration of many major holidays. They add excitement to the celebration, and they’re absolutely stunning. They’re also extremely loud, and that can cause anxiety for our four-legged friends. Some dogs don’t mind the loud booms, but many dogs start to shake and whimper from fright. No one likes to see their furbabies scared and upset. It tugs on your heart and all you want to do is find a way to sooth them. Here are a few easy tips to keep your dog calm during fireworks.

Watch the Fireworks on TV

It’s always great to be upfront for the fireworks show, but if you’re dog has anxiety from loud noises, then it might be best to stay home, cuddle on the couch, and watch the beautiful bursts of colors on your TV or laptop. Then you both can enjoy the beautiful display, without the loud booms that make your dog tremble.

Leave Your Dog at Home

Heading out for a fun night of celebrating with friends and family? If you plan on going to a fireworks show, sitting so close you can feel the ash floating down, then do your dog a solid, and leave them in the comfort of their own home. They’ll enjoy snuggling in their favorite spot, and you’ll enjoy a night out.

Play Before The Show Begins

If there are fireworks near your house, or you have neighbors who like to war for the best display, then make sure to wear your dog out before nightfall. Take them for a long walk, play fetch or tug of war with their favorite toys, and chase them around the house to make them tired. Hopefully the sound of their own snores will drown out the loud noises coming from outside.

A Well Fed Dog Will Sleep Even Better

Once you wear out your dog before the fireworks show begins, make sure they eat and drink as well. Not only will they sleep better on a full belly, but if they do get a little anxious from the fireworks, they may not want to eat or drink later. Hopefully, between the exercise and some comfort food, your dog will have less anxiety and lots of good rest.

Cozy Up Their Favorite Space

Whether your dog sleeps in the bed with you, has a specific spot on the couch, or their own cozy corner with a fluffy pillow bed, they most likely go to that place for comfort. When the fireworks are blasting, make sure that space is ready to go. Cozy it up with an extra blanket, and make sure they’re surrounded by their favorite toys. This will help decrease any anxiety they may be feeling.

Most Importantly – Return The Favor

When you’re feeling upset or stressed out, most likely your dog will come over to cuddle with you. They hate seeing us filled with sadness or anxiety, and they want to make us feel better. So return the favor. If you see that your dog is having a hard time with the fireworks, pick them up or settle down with them to cuddle. Scratch them in their favorite place, give them belly rubs. When your dog knows you’re there to keep them safe, it always lessens anxiety.

You and your dog can get through anything together. That includes fireworks and the loud noises that come with them. Hopefully these easy tips will help you keep your dog calm during fireworks anytime of the year.

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