Organization pairs vets with PTSD and dogs

They risk it all for us, United States soldiers, sailors, Marines, and the Coast Guard. And when they return from foreign wars, they are often not the same person they once were.

Many suffer from Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome, and despite help from family, counselors, and psychiatrists, sometimes they need something more.

Sometimes they need a soldier's best friend.

"She does a lot of things for me that she wasn't even trained to do," said Brandon Jonescu. Brandon is paired up with Molly, a 3-year-old golden retriever. "They love you unconditionally."

But Molly is much more than just a pet. 

Jonescu served two tours in Iraq with the United States Army. "We drove in through Kuwait in the initial invasion, spent a year there, and saw some not too fun stuff," he said. After that he went on one more tour in the Navy reserve. "I only actually lasted a month on my second tour when I injured my back and was medevaced."

After three surgeries, he knew he needed help with PTSD. "I definitely withdrew, I was angry," said Jonescu. That's when he turned to Soldiers Best Friend. "I have a life;t that's the best way to say it."

"We started the organization in the Spring of 2011 to serve those veterans who have given so much for us, and have some back with especially some of the invisible wounds of war," said Dr. John Burdham The photos of the veterans and their dogs are displayed at the organizations location in Glendale. The organization was started by Burdham. "Being a veterinarian I was aware of the high incidence of animals being turned over to shelters, I also did it to rescue a lot of homeless dogs."

The organization finds dogs for veterans like Brandon by scouring local shelters. It then trains the veteran and dog together as a fully certified service dog team. 

"The dog goes home from the beginning with the veteran, lives with the veteran, trains at least twice a week anywhere from about six month to a year to achieve service dog status," said Burnham.

Soldier's best friend just recently graduated its 90th service dog team. 

"Not only do we get praises and thanks from the veteran, but it's almost as touching and sometimes very emotional to get feedback from mothers, wives, and children of the veterans and the effects this is having on them," he said.

"My wife and my kids have benefitted more than me because they get a better father, a better husband, the man I'm supposed to be, but what every man sets out to be thanks to her," said Jonescu.

Not only does Molly help Brandon, but she also takes care of Daisy their Shitzu, and golden retriever puppies Chance and Callie.

"They all get along great, she's the mother," he said.

Thanks to federal laws that allow service dogs in public places, Brandon and Molly go everywhere together.

"There are times when I've gone to a location or movie theater, and people don't even realize she is there, or a restaurant and people are so surprised, they are so good,' said Jonescu.

Now Brandon's PTSD isn't the curse it once was. "I can do anything, I don't have to be afraid of what is going on, or be too irritated, I can just go and if I'm with her I can relax... she helps me live my life to the fullest," he said.

To learn more about the program Dr. Burnham explained how it works in more detail on our YouTube page, just go to www.youtube.com/FOX10Phoenix or you can visit the program at https://soldiersbestfriend.org


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