Skeptical veteran runs 9 month experiment with service dog

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- It wasn't that Navy veteran Matt Massingill didn't like dogs. He was just skeptical.

Massingill served the United States for 20 years in Bosnia, Iraq and other places he cannot disclose. He worked narcotics. He is still extremely proud of his military service.

But his time in combat and his injuries contributed to a very difficult struggle for him. He came home with PTSD.

He won't talk about what he saw in combat. But he will tell briefly about a time his leg was broken in a horrific way. "Joe Theisman has nothing on me," he says. During an attack his foot was thrust up and backwards to his thigh. The break was bloody and painful.

Trouble is he had to relive the injury over and over in nightmares.

That led to insomnia and a normal life turned inside out.

He says during his bouts with depression, his wife urged him to go to K9s for Warriors in Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida.

So he came to the First Coast from New York.

He was paired up with Dozer, a rescue dog that was only 48 hours away from being euthanized. Professional trainers at K9s for Warriors, a non-profit, had spent months training Dozer in advance.

Massingill says he decided to keep a nightmare log "because I was a little skeptical and wanted to know what the dog would do for me other than be fluffy and cute."

He kept the log for nine months, he says.

And the results?

Massingill says on the second night with Dozer, the dog awakened him from a nightmare. After that, Massingill says he had "246-248 nightmares and he woke me up from 224-226 of them."

He calls it "amazing."

It's allowed him from sleeping at most two hours consecutively to six or eight hours a night. That, in turn, has given him the internal power to combat his PTSD and regain a large part of the happiness he's had before in life.

His wife says now that Dozer is helping Matt, they can go out around town and enjoy eating at restaurants and socializing outside their living room.

Massingill calls the change a "massive positive" change in his life.

Dozer is with Massingill "99% of the time," as all the service dogs through K9s for Warriors are.

Dozer even stands outside the shower to stay nearby.

Massingill is such a believer in the program that he and his wife both work now at K9s for Warriors.

If you'd like to donate to Operation Orion/K9s for Warriors, here's the link.

The Weaver Foundation is matching donations.

It takes $10,000, according to K9s for Warriors, to sponsor a warrior/dog team. That includes months of training prior to the warrior's being matched with his dog. It also includes medical bills for the dog, three weeks of room and board for the warrior at the facility, and other expenses.

The warriors are not charged a penny.


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