David served 16 years on active duty in the Marines. Suffering from chronic pain of injuries sustained on active duty, David’s life became a battle with severe depression shortly after returning from the Gulf War. The pain and darkness of depression resulted in a cycle of sleeplessness, flashbacks, isolation, outbursts of anger, and suicide ideation and attempts that extended over many years. In trying to sleep and mask the pain of the deep bouts of depression, he resorted to self-medication when prescriptions failed to help. The depression and inappropriate bursts of anger broke apart important relationships and made working with others progressively more difficult. Constant pain and the growing isolation meant even further downward spirals of depression for him.
In March of 2018 during some of the darkest days of his depression, David met his new best friend, SPENCER, a lovable paws4vets Golden Retriever. SPENCER’s special training and loving attentiveness helped David regain control of his life and relationships. SPENCER interrupts David’s nightmares allowing him to sleep. She watches David very closely and senses when he begins to show mood swings, anxiety, or signs of stress from pain. Her persistence in helping David to redirect his thoughts has allowed him to make significant progress in stopping the cycle of isolation and depression that previously ruled his life. With SPENCER at his side, David can now see the good in life again which allows him to reach out and encourage other veterans who need help. In addition to SPENCER’s attentiveness to David’s mental and emotional health, her special training makes David’s life easier by retrieving items that David cannot reach, bracing to help him get up from low positions, and anchoring to reduce anxiety. David tells everyone that SPENCER saved his life in March 2018 and that she motivates him every day to keep getting better.