Service dog is helping crime victim with PTSD deal with her condition
San Antonio Express-News
Kay Dyer said she didn't go out for years after she was attacked in her home by a stranger.
She was choked with a lanyard clipped to her work ID badge and stabbed in the neck with a box cutter while she wrestled with her attacker, who remains at large.
Soon after, Dyer and her family moved off of her husband's U.S. Army base in the middle of the Mojave Desert and into San Antonio.
She developed post-traumatic stress disorder, and therapy didn't help, she recalled. That was 2005.
Seven years later, a friend suggested Dyer employ a service dog, a technique now widely recommended for veterans and others with PTSD.
Since she met Brooks, a 2-year-old pit bull mix, who was being housed in Animal Care Service's Brooks Overflow Shelter, the two rarely are apart.
She adopted the dog in August and life changed for both of them.
He walks beside her, lies beneath her chair and stands facing away from her at the grocery checkout, always on the lookout.
“He knows that he is mine and I am his. He's so calm and so comforting,” she said.
Brooks accompanied Dyer Wednesday night, when she told her story to the Animal Care Services advisory board.
Before Brooks, “I had to take Xanax to go to work. I was suicidal,” said Dyer, 41, a veterinary technician. “Sometimes, all it takes is just a friend to have your back, to be there for you. He saved my life.”
ACS Director Kathy Davis said she'd heard of a few rescued dogs becoming service animals and military work dogs.
“I am tickled that any of our dogs get to be selected as therapy dogs,” she said. “I'm just thrilled to know that Brooks got to graduate to that level.”
A new state law, authored by San Antonio Rep. José Menéndez, added PTSD to the list of disorders for which a service dog may be used to treat, thus allowing PTSD service dogs into restaurants and other businesses. While they're permitted under the federal Americans with Disabilities Act, some say the state law previously was unclear
House Bill 489 also created penalties for people who misrepresent an animal as a service dog and specified two questions that business owners may ask someone with a dog to ensure the animal's status: if the dog is required because of a disability, and what type of service the dog provides.
“Now, the law is crystal-clear, even for restaurants,” Menéndez said. “We've heard good feedback, but mostly just anecdotal cases,” from people who use service dogs and have explained the new law to business owners.
Canines of all shapes and sizes have been used to treat those with PTSD, a psychiatric disorder often associated with veterans of war or people involved in other traumatic events. According to the Veterans Affairs Department's National Center for PTSD, dogs can help bring out feelings of love, taking orders, reducing stress and getting people out of the house.
“Owning a dog can lift your mood or help you feel less stressed,” the center's website, “Dogs and PTSD,” says, adding that some people say the dogs help them manage their symptoms.
Menéndez said he became interested in clarifying the bill after meeting Bootz and Adan Gallegos, an Army veteran who was involved in the capture of Saddam Hussein, according to legal documents.
After his service, Gallegos was diagnosed with severe PTSD, and a VA doctor authorized a service animal.
One day in 2012, Gallegos was with his service dog, a rat terrier named Bootz, when he tried to pick up a bed he'd purchased at Billy Bob's Beds.
Owner William Gholson — aka Billy Bob — told Gallegos to leave and take his dog with him. Gallegos argued, offering to show Gholson his dog's certification papers, but Gholson indicated that “no one could make him do anything in his own building,” the federal lawsuit Gallegos later filed states.
Gholson called police and Gallegos left but was told by employees who followed him outside to take off his Wounded Warrior shirt and hat and “go occupy Wall Street,” the lawsuit states. The suit was settled for an undisclosed amount.
Gallegos and Bootz were present when Gov. Rick Perry signed HB 489 into law during a ceremony in San Antonio.
Dyer said that it was coverage of the new law that motivated her to consider adopting a service dog.
She was recently reminded about the benefits he's brought.
During a recent panic attack, she said, the mutt jumped into her lap and rested his head on her chest to calm her.
“Brooks gives me an opportunity to get out and talk to people,” she said. “He's just amazing.”