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How Getting a Service Dog After a PTSD Episode Saved My Life

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I sat cradled in a ball hidden inside a clothes rail in the supermarket, screaming and crying. I had just experienced my first hallucination. The experience broke me in two. As someone with a usually bubbly and Tigger-like personality, I was mortified that I had embarrassed myself in this way. Yet what I found even scarier was that no one else could see what I could see.

• What is PTSD?

Security picked me up and escorted me out. I ran out with every ounce of strength I had, the humiliation consuming me completely. How was I ever to leave the house again? What was I going to do? Why was this happening? These questions rattled in my brain. I didn’t leave the house for two weeks. My husband had to take time off work to look after our son. The guilt was all-consuming.

After a few weeks I managed to scrape my traumatized body from the bed and skulk to the doctor. I was immediately put onto a cocktail of medication and sent home. The next month was worse — terrible, in fact. I attempted the unthinkable. Medication was not for me. I tried many different types. Nothing seemed to work for me. It got to the point that the doctor dismissed me with a book suggestion written on a tiny scrap piece of paper.

After that didn’t work, I returned one last time. Tears running down my face, I explained how desperate I was for any source of help. She then said a sentence that changed my life.

“Have you ever considered getting an assistance dog to help you?”

I had never thought of that. That one question changed the course of my life. I threw myself into the depths of the internet, the darkest parts of YouTube and every book I could get my trembling hands on. I found myself a dog — a breed that works for me. I chose the sweet-natured, soul-calming Cavalier King Charles Spaniel. I trained alongside an amazing organization, Canine Generated Independence. We taught my hero dog Paddington how to smell out an episode, respond with deep pressure therapy and even snap me out of hallucinations. That was the start of my freedom.

I am now able to live my life. I even managed to visit the supermarket where it all began. When my heart started to race, he sat down and placed a paw on my leg. I was able to find a place to calm down and have control. I don’t know where I would be without this little dog.

He has saved my life.

Follow this journey on Little Paddington Bear.

Originally published: December 3, 2018
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