Pets & Animals

'I just look down at him and I smile:' Veterans find normalcy — and hope — through dog companions

Dogs have long been man’s best friend. But for many veterans, the comfort of a canine companion is essential to daily living.

K9s for Warriors, a Jacksonville, Florida-based nonprofit, is matching veterans up with service dogs to help battle post-traumatic stress disorder — and the four-legged friends are doing just that.


“I hardly left the house,” Brett Simon, who served in Iraq handling explosives dogs, told TODAY about life after his service. “I would go shopping at midnight, 2 o’clock in the morning for groceries and things that I needed.”

After watching him struggle, Simon’s mother thought a service dog would help him adjust. It did, so much so that the mother-son duo decided to launch K9s for Warriors to help others like Simon. 

The program consists of a month-long training course during which veterans live with their assigned service dogs. Once the course is over, the veterans can take the dogs home to their families and return to regular life.


“My blood pressure has gone down quite a bit. My anxiety, I barely see it anymore,” veteran Donald Hogue said about how his life has changed since being paired with a dog, adding that his dog often comforts him when he’s nervous. “He’ll nudge me in the leg and then I just look down at him and I smile and then we’re fine.”

For chief hospital corpsman Anthony Geron, his dog has been able to help him manage nightmares so he can simply sleep at night. 

“He wakes me up,” Geron said. “He puts his paws on me, puts his head in my face and it’s just a lot easier to just go right back to sleep knowing that he is there.” 


Kevin Crowell, one of the first participants in the program, has seen 10 different doctors and attended several post-traumatic stress disorder support groups. Nothing worked, except this program. 


"Why would you live another day dealing with the anxiety, or the medications, or the rage, or the anger when you can have such a positive influence come into your life?" Kevin's wife Lisa told TODAY.

Now men and women who bravely served our country get to experience fulfilling lives with their families —with a little help from some furry friends.