Linda is one human being whose bravery and courage I have trouble wrapping my head around. As a nurse serving in the war for two whole decades, she was subject to the terrors of watching her fellow soldiers perish, seeing children fatally wounded, or encountering bodies horrifically charred by burns.
Most people would not be able to come back after that, to return to normal life and be expected to function as a person who has never seen such things. She says:
I feel nothing. Because that’s what happens with PTSD, you start feeling nothing. […] There’s a loss of yourself. You lose yourself. One of my other friends said the music in my soul has died. That’s what happens with PTSD. It’s an actual injury.
But there was something Linda had not yet tried to cope with her illness, and that is where Tender Loving Canines came to help. The organization, which provides the means for a newly independent life for veterans, gifted Linda with Willow.
“Willow is like an old soul,” she says. “She wants to be with me all the time, and she knows everything about me. She helped me with sleep, she made me feel safe, she responded to my triggers, [and] allowed me to be more out in public.”
With the sweet, dedicated Labrador constantly by her side, Linda quickly discovered the almost magical power of dogs:
When you have a service dog, people smile at you. They want to talk to you. […] It’s kind of forced therapy, but it works. It gets you back in life again.
Thanks to Willow’s patience, kindness, and, let’s face it, her extraordinary abilities as a service dog, Linda is able to participate in a world which may have otherwise been barred from her. She is now a psychiatric nurse practitioner and aids other veterans with PTSD. Truly, Willow has changed her life and given her the power to change others’.
If I can make a difference in one or two of those veterans, then that’s my mission now. We all can learn from a dog. For a dog, there is no yesterday and there’s no tomorrow, there’s only the day at hand. […] Today is important. Enjoy the day that we have.