Veterans receive personal service dogs

Veterans receive personal service dogs
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Both Danielle Sillman of Webb City and Michael Engstrom of Carthage served in the army during the War in Afghanistan. Both veterans have suffered from PTSD since returning.

“I always get really nervous and like stressed out when I have to go into public places. I’m always looking around, making sure no one is going to come up behind me and stuff like that,” Sillman said.

Through the efforts of Compass Quest Veteran Services, Heartland Canines for Veterans and On Command Canine Training Center, both veterans received a highly-trained service dog at no cost to them. A brief ceremony was held at McIndoe Park by the Shoal Creek low water bridge.

“What he’s going to be able to help me out with is basically just being my 24/7 battle buddy. Just kind of like I used to have in the military,” Sillman said.

Amy Donaldson is the president of Compass Quest. She said the dogs should be pretty reminiscent of the military working dogs the veterans worked with during their deployment.

“Certain problems are triggered from anxiety, and the dogs have the ability to understand when somebody is nervous, and they can bring that level down,” Donaldson said.

Sillman called her diagnosis “extreme PTSD”. She functions daily with an impending sense of doom. Her dog, Lucas, will help enhance her quality of life.

“Having him basically, will just stop all that. You know because he’s going to be the one out there looking for me, looking around and stuff, instead of me having to always be out on alert,” Sillman said.

The dogs greeted their new owners by nuzzling into them and Lucas even jumped up and seemed to embrace Sillman.

“It’s really sweet to know that an animal loves you. Just like immediately. You know he just grasps on to you and connects with you,” Sillman said.

Donaldson said that through the Missouri Pet Breeders Association, Compass Quest is able to find a dog that suits the exact needs for the veteran. They currently have service dogs who help with seizure disorders and diabetes.

The dogs will undergo six additional months of training with their new owners. If you or a veteran you know is interested in a service dog, visit www.compassquest.org or www.heartlandcaninesforveterans.com.