CHICAGO (CBS) — Two veterans struggling to deal with life after the military have received some help in the form of service dogs.
Sean Cheker, 32, and Clayton Irons, 60, both Army vets met their German shepherd rescue service dogs on Wednesday at Pawsitively Heaven Pet Resort in Chicago Ridge.
Cheker will team with Rio, Irons with a dog named Major.
“Most individuals will go out say ‘It’s a nice day.’ I would go out and say ‘I hope nobody messes with me today.’ I was expecting things to happen,” Irons said.
Irons said he wasn’t diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder until a few years after he left the Army following leg surgery.
“It wasn’t until I had an operation on my leg that I was diagnosed, because I acted out in the hospital. When they touched me or grabbed me, I reacted and I would wake up sweating and it felt like I wasn’t there. I was someplace else,” he said.
He’s putting a lot of faith in how his service dog can help him.
“That dog allows me to go out and interact with the public, and not be as tense, and not be as super-vigilant, and walk into a place and looking at all the exits, and I’m exhausted by the time I order a meal,” Irons said.
Cheker said he’s “stoked” at the prospect of having a service dog, and believes Rio will help him in life, as well.
“I have a hard time exposing my back to people, stuff like that. So I’m hoping a service dog will watch my back,” he said.
Cheker served 10 years in the Army and was deployed three times to Iraq. Irons served 27 years in the Army and had multiple deployments, as well.
Rio and Major were provided by K9 For Veteran Warriors, which provides rescue dogs to help veterans affected by PTSD. Founder and CEO Mike Tellerino said the dogs will now undergo at least three months “boot camp” to understand their particular veteran’s needs before they team up for good.
“A lot of our veterans have sleep disorders. They’ll have dreams. If the veteran’s sleeping, and the dog is with him, the dog will wake him up from the dream. So he can feel comfortable going to sleep, knowing that if he does go to a bad place, the dog’s going to wake him up,” he said.
Fernando Salcedo Jr., a 31-year-old Army veteran who has been teamed up with a service dog, Tango, since March said the dog is the best thing to happen to him in quite a while.
“I look forward to going to places. I’m happy going out and about. He’s happy all the time. I could see his happiness, and it just makes me happy,” he said.