JACKSONVILLE, Fla — Star is a certified service dog trained to help Louie Belluomini, a veteran, who served our country for nine years with duty in Afghanistan and Iraq.
He came home from overseas proud of his service but swept up in the fury of PTSD. With nightmares ripping up his life, Belluomini found K9s for Warriors in Ponte Vedra. The non-profit group has a 99% success rate at preventing suicides after training dogs and matching them with warriors.
At K9s for Warriors, Belluomini was paired with Star, trained to help him manage his PTSD. "She not only saved my life but saved our family," he said.
Now living in Findley, Ohio, Belluomini is a paramedic and takes Star out on his ambulance runs. "She's a trooper," he said. He believes Star just might be the only service dog in the country who rides in an ambulance with her handler.
Now, during the pandemic, Belluomini sees inside the fight against COVID-19.
He says it's upsetting to see some people trying to pet Star because he worries the virus could be transmitted from people to canines.
In fact, in North Carolina a pug, doctors say, got the virus from people infected in the household.
The pug is OK but Belluomini doesn't want to take any chances with Star.
He also wants to remind people to take this COVID-19 outbreak seriously.
To be honest, Star does look kind of funny.
"My patients crack up and the nurses think it's hilarious, too," he said, but then the serious message penetrates through.
"It makes them think a little bit more," he said.
It raises the question to people not wearing a mask, "Why aren't you?"
Belluomini has fought so hard to preserve his life dealing with PTSD that he wants everyone to be more conscientious.
He says consider our pets are fragile, just like our seniors and others with underlying medical conditions. Wearing a mask can protect them, just in case you have Covid 19 and don't know it. People, as you've heard, can be asymptomic.
The U.S. Surgeon General has recommended people wear masks in public when social distancing might become a challenge.
A final note for people worried if a mask is safe for dogs. K9s for Warriors says the mask is made of breathable material, the same fabric used for various procedures in veterinarians' offices.
If you'd like more information about K9s for Warriors, go to K9sforWarriors.org