Jag has been an amazing addition to our family. Prior to receiving Jag I rarely left the house with my family. It has made it hard for all of us not being able to go out together to festivals, stores, events, parks, or even enjoy date nights with my wife. My anxiety and panic will rise and I will need to either leave or I will try to just deal with it so we can all stay and my wife and kids can enjoy themselves but then end up just getting angry and causing needless fights. With Jag, I am able to feel more secure because she is watching for threats as well and will alert me if anything isn’t safe. She also keeps people from getting too close to me, which is something that often happens in crowds and triggers my anxiety. While standing in the open, she will “about face” and sit and watch behind me so I feel secure even with others being behind me that I cannot see. When Jag begins to sense that my anxiety is getting high she alerts me and takes my focus and assures me everything is OK and gives me comfort until I can calm myself enough to continue.
At night nightmares have always kept me awake. Every night I will be woken up by a nightmare or my wife will need to wake me up from a nightmare. The panic and dread I feel when I wake up is unbearable. It can take hours for me to feel safe enough again to even lie down to attempt to sleep again. Medicine has not yet been able to allow me any reprieve from these nightmares. I will wake up drenched in sweat unsure of what is real and what is not. My wife would then stay awake with me to help calm me and at my request would go through the house to assure me everything was safe and taken care of. I hated having to ask her to do this because we have small children that she cares for and wakes up with as well but I needed her comfort to get through the nights. Jag is now able to stay with me so my wife can finally get some sleep. Jag is at my side as soon as I wake up to comfort me and bring me back to reality, and she will even wake me up if she feels my panic getting too high. She guards our house so I know things are safe and then she will not leave my side as I try to relax.
Having Jag by my side has helped not just me but my entire family. I still prefer not to be in crowded places but I feel as though I can handle the situation more now that I have Jag and my family does not have to suffer because of my problems. I am getting more and more confident to venture into crowded places with Jag by my side, too, and hope that one day the apprehension I’ve lived with for years about going out will no longer be a problem for us. My wife was also always on edge, watching me and watching what was happening around us because over the years of living with this she knows how I react at my various stages of anxiety and she knows certain things that set me off and wants to alleviate as much of my anxiety as she can. She did this for me on top of also taking care of the kids because I could not offer her very much help with them because of my anxiety. I know I am very fortunate to have a wife who has done this for me for so long but I am so happy that I now have Jag so I can be more independent and not feel as though I’m causing unnecessary stress for my wife and kids. We can enjoy life as a more normal and happy family because that has always been my goal.
“Give thanks for what you are now, and keep fighting for what you want to be tomorrow” is a motto that resonates strongly with retired USMC Sergeant Jesse James. Jesse received his At Ease Service Dog, Jag, in 2012, around the time he was medically discharged from the Marine Corps. Jesse suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder from his service in Afghanistan supporting Operation Enduring Freedom. Jesse’s symptoms of PTSD included hyper vigilance in crowded places, which inhibited him from going into public as well as sleep problems, which affected his overall well being. By performing cues that help mitigate his symptoms of PTSD, Jag assists Jesse to live a more independent life, benefiting not only Jesse, but also his entire family. When asked about the role Jag plays in his life today, Jesse states
Jag is always by my side and looking out for me. We’ve grown so close together and the way she moves alerts me if someone is near the house or if someone is coming up. I don’t think I could sleep at all without knowing she is right there and able to alert me if something happens. She always looks out for me and knows when I need her.
Jag continues to play an important role in Jesse’s healing journey, helping him to create the future he is fighting for.