Service Dog Turns Veteran’s Life Around

Photo: K9 for Warriors/NBC

Photo: K9s for Warriors/NBC

After three tours of combat duty in Iraq and Afghanistan, Captain Jason Haag returned home a broken man.

The Purple Heart recipient suffered from severe PTSD that left him with nightmares and panic attacks, and he took out his frustrations and anxieties on his wife and children. Haag admits that he was slowly killing himself with alcohol, prescription medications, isolation, and anger. He and his wife had reached a breaking point in their marriage when they discovered an organization that trains dogs rescued from local shelters to serve veterans with PTSD.

The dogs are trained for tasks specific to the needs of recovering veterans. They are trained to perform "block and cover" moves that allow their handler a sense of security in public places. They are also able to recognize panic and anxiety attacks, and can often help prevent them from occurring.

Haag's life changed drastically when he was matched with his service dog, Axel. He credits Axel for literally saving him his marriage, his children, and his life. On one occasion, Haag blacked out during an argument with a customer at a shop. When he came out of the episode, he realized that Axel had led him out of the area, opening the door for him and sitting him down outside.

Haag is now a board member for the organization that provided him with Axel, and he is dedicated to spreading the word about service dogs for veterans.

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