Team Since: 2015

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SGT Jeff Mitchell, USA (ret.)

After being hospitalized at the Atlanta VA Medical Center for two weeks in December of 2009, I was desperate to try anything to get some relief from PTSD. I contacted paws4vets and began the process of getting an Assistance Dog. I worked with CAROLINE for about 9 months. It was decided that paws4vets would not place CAROLINE with me because the handler/dog bond was not there. I spent many months learning how to handle a dog, but was unable to open up enough to have the type of bond that is required for a handler/dog team to be successful. In February of 2011, paws4vets asked if I could foster TAZIE for a couple of weeks.

TAZIE is a feral rescue from Afghanistan. I was at Ft. Stewart when she was brought in from our paws4prisons program in Jesup, GA and I could identify with her immediately. She came into the room with her tail between her legs, not looking at anyone, and only trying to get as far back into a corner as she could. That was me. I wanted to be invisible, I didn't want to have to deal with anyone.

TAZIE and I quickly became very close. She has not left my side since the day I got her. Because of her background as a feral rescue, it was never believed possible to get her certified until Terry, COO of paws4people, saw how she had opened up. The same was happening with me, and Terry suggested we start looking at getting certified as a team. In March of 2012 TAZIE and I passed our (PAT)Public Access Test.

In May of 2015 TAZIE was retired and is now very happy in her much less stressful role as our pet. I began working with AUSTIN, who is the polar opposite of TAZ. AUSTIN is very soft and affectionate. I enjoy giving him the attention that he craves and his playfulness. AUSTIN and I graduated as a certified team in October of 2015.

AUSTIN is amazing, whenever I look at him he always seems to be smiling. He is my light in darkness and is able to guide me to a better frame of mind. AUSTIN has allow me to continue on my journey to recovery. I have been able to form better relationships with the people around me and over 2016 I was able to start traveling again. Concerts are something I really enjoy, but for years I was not able to attend due to the crowds and the high stress levels they brought me to. With AUSTIN by my side, I am thrilled to say that I have been able to attend several concerts, and I look forward to continuing to expand my horizons.

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