Ralph is a retired US Navy veteran who served in both Vietnam and Beirut. He spent 15 years in Special Ops and has been diagnosed with the highest possible degree of PTSD.
Before he was paired with Beef, Ralph lived within a very small comfort zone -- as he described it, he was “hibernating at home.” Outside of that zone he was on high alert and suffered intense episodes of panic. Sometimes it would only be things on television that would trigger the panic.
Going out in public was very, very difficult – an event such as a baseball game would be unthinkable – “too many people packed in; too close.”
Ralph spent four and a half years in anger management and still struggled to have any sort of normal life with his wife and their three special needs children. Separated from his family, alone, watching television, he felt consumed with aggressive feelings and grief over the loss of his family and any good things life had to offer.
Then in early 2012 he wrote a letter to his local VA asking to be considered as a candidate to receive a service dog.
He underwent an extensive interview with a veteran liaison where he discussed how his life had been impacted by PTSD, how he must deal with the health issues, restlessness and panic associated with his condition.
And Ralph was accepted to join the War Dogs Making It Home program.
There he met Beef, who had been unwanted and surrendered to a shelter. Trained by Elana Morgan of Morgan’s Dogs, Beef was ready to be a veteran’s service dog, and Elana decided to pair him with Ralph.
After two weeks of working with Beef, Ralph began to notice changes in himself. He started to feel more relaxed, more comfortable being around others. He felt more receptive to people. He actually found himself feeling happiness and smiling.
After six and a half weeks, Ralph and Beef graduated and got their service vest. The vest identifies Beef as a service dog and lets people know he’s a working part of a team. Clearly identified as a War Dog, people are not to pet him and there is a notice on his vest, “If handler down; do not remove dog from handler.”
Having achieved this level in the training process, Ralph was finally allowed to take Beef
home and embarked upon a new world with his partner at his side. 24/7. Ralph found he began to feel a new sense of purpose and responsibility. “I take care of him; he takes care of me,” he said.
Beef is trained to be a level of protection between Ralph and the outside world. If he senses anxiety in Ralph he will place himself in front of him or wherever necessary to provide a barrier between Ralph and others. He may also push against ralph and get him to sit down so that he can lie on this chest and calm him. Beef is also trained to wake his handler up if he’s having bad dreams or seems distressed in his sleep.
Now with worry and anxiety down tremendously, Ralph no longer feels he’s living on the edge. His moods are stabilized, he can go out in public, and he’s able to interact with his family. His therapist says she sees a “big, big change” in this veteran that previously felt he had to be constantly on alert.
Now Ralph has a new life – and a new partner for life.