A Veteran's Day Story: Dennis & Trooper
Passionate, full of life, and a devout Christian, Dennis cares deeply about others. After struggling with PTSD for years, his faith in himself was restored not only by his belief in God, but by the tangible, ever-present love of his service dog, Trooper.
"Because of my relationship with Jesus Christ, I'm not afraid of dying; because of my relationship with Trooper, I'm not afraid of living."
“I went to war because I wanted to protect people. And survivor’s guilt is real. After I came back from combat, I was in rough shape. I was afraid to go to bed at night. I couldn’t do suicide because of my beliefs, but it preoccupied my thoughts. A friend told me about Northwest Battle Buddies, and then he helped me fill out the application because I was too much of a mess to do it by myself. They had a three-year waiting list at the time, but they had a spot open up, and I got in.
From the first day I started with NWBB, Shannon Walker and the whole team were phenomenal. So full of love and compassion. And Shannon’s dog- and people-training skills are just something else. She picked Trooper for me because he’s full of energy, like me.
And he has been such a blessing. He’s energetic and playful, but when he’s working, he’s cool-headed and reliable. I can count on him to watch over me, to have my back just like I have his. When the nightmares and feelings of depression start, Trooper licks me to wake me up, to get me out of it.
Before I went into the military, I coached little league, middle and high school — I wanted to help shape kids into thriving adults. I used to counsel rape survivors in Idaho, Washington, and the prison system. That stuff changed when I came back. I could hardly embrace life for myself, let alone go that so far outside of my comfort zone like that for others.
Training Trooper and learning to be his handler taught me to be a leader again. He helps me get out into the world and do my best for others. He pays attention to how I’m feeling, whether I’m awake or asleep, and he brings me back to the present. Keeps me positive, especially when it’s tough. I don’t want to talk too much about combat, but my experiences in combat make the little things Trooper does so meaningful. Trooper helps me daily. It’s the little things that are actually something really big. Trooper’s my battle buddy — we don’t abandon our partners. We just don’t. And Trooper doesn’t abandon me. He comes everywhere with me, and it means everything to know he’s right there with me.”