America's VetDogs also brought Stacy and Charlie together.
Stacy Pearsall, 38, was an air force photographer for ten years. In 2008, Stacy retired because of her combat injuries, which also included some brain trauma. Once she was home and trying to acclimate, she experienced chronic physical and emotional pain, PTSD, anxiety, and eventually seizures. It seemed like being home was going to be just as trying as seeing action.
“I knew other veterans who had benefited from service dogs,” Stacy explained, “but I didn’t want people staring or knowing that I needed help. Then, two years ago, I had a gran mal seizure, which changed my outlook. What if I had another one, this time without my husband around?”
In November 2017, America’s VetDogs matched Stacy with Chalie, who is a 2-year-old black Lab. “I don’t leave my house without him,” Stacy says. “I have deafness in one ear, and Charlie alerts me when people are coming up behind us, so I’m not startled - a leftover reflex from war. If I lose my balance, he presses up against me to stabilize me. If I’m thrashing in my sleep from a PTSD nightmare, he’ll nudge me awake or pull off the covers and put his head on my lap to be petted until my heart rate comes down. If I were to have a big seizure, he knows to find help if I’m alone and then lie by my side until I come around.”
Stacy and Charlie travel the nation taking pictures of veterans. Stacy feels a tremendous amount of independence and freedom with Charlie, whose presence is in and of itself protection. “I used to feel like a burden to loved ones, but now, I feel the shackles have been taken off.”
Photo source: Women's Health