So how did you hear about Animals for Armed Forces?
Linda: I heard about them at the VA from a guy who was working the desk for physical therapy and became a peer counselor. He asked if we were looking for a dog and I said, “Yeah! We are looking for a dog; we want to get a therapy dog for John.” He said wait a minute. He had to go back through two months’ worth of emails and he found it: Animals for Armed Forces. He printed it out and I brought it home to John.
Was it completely free?
Linda: Oh, yes! It was completely free. All shots were up to date. They gave us two free vet visits that included the first and second round of shots.
What shelter did you adopt from?
Linda: Helen Woodward Shelter by the Polo Fields in the San Diego area.
I am sure that was an exciting day. What were you thinking and feeling when you saw your dog for the first time?
Linda: John is an animal person. Every animal goes to him. I just sat on the bench and said nothing. She was all over John. After she is finished with John, she jumps up on my lap and lays down. And I asked the trainer, “May I walk her?” When they walk they are supposed to walk on the left and stop when you tell them to stop. She didn’t have the stop part down yet, but she walked on the left side already.
What kind of dog is she?
Linda: She is 100% poodle. She weighs 13 pounds. When we were leaving the shelter they told us “She is already trained as a security dog.” Originally her name was Dolly, but we changed her name to Frankie because there is a song called “Frankie and Johnny Were Lovers.” She is not allowed to bark. The only barking she does is if he or she is outside and there is someone walking by. She alerts us when there is danger. Because she is a certified therapy dog we can take her with us. Southwest has her on file. She is amazing.
How long have you had Frankie?
Linda: We have put up with her highness for 3 years. My rule is don’t feed dogs people food, but you know what John does? He feeds her vegetables from a fork. She doesn’t like mushrooms, but carrots, peas, she eats it all.
You mentioned before that you both served. What branch did you both serve in?
Linda: We were both in the Navy. Our older son served in the Marines and our younger son in the Army.
I know you mentioned that your dog is a therapy animal and John had PTSD. When did you know he had PTSD and how big of an impact has your dog been for you and your family?
Linda: I knew John had PTSD before I married him. He has had it for 48 years. What he did was drink to help it. As a matter of fact, it will be his 4th year sober this Saturday. He turned to the VA for help and entered as many programs as he could. Now, with Frankie, when he stresses he would just call her and she would come on his lap. If one of us is having a bad day, she knows. People with PTSD are like cops: they go to a restaurant and their backs are against the wall and they need to see everything. Now he doesn’t care. He is not hyper vigilant. He is more relaxed. Frankie has made our lives so simple and so calm. This is phenomenal, this is a miracle.
When did John serve?
Linda: He served from 1963-1970: He was stationed in the jungles of Vietnam as a combat medic so he saw the worst of it. He got two commendations and built a hospital and freshwater supply for a city in Vietnam.
He’s got three kinds of cancers. The jungles he was in got sprayed with Agent Orange and that was how he got it. Agent Orange is horrible, and this disease is heinous. But he often says, “I would do it again.” It’s like being a firefighter, there is something inside you. It is built in you.
It's amazing that just one dog could make such huge difference.
Linda: John was sober for a year before we got Frankie, but oh my gosh the difference! It sped up his sober drinking process probably 10-fold and that is saying a lot. I am very proud of my husband.
What do you appreciate the most about Animals for Armed Forces?
Linda: Their understanding of the problem. I honestly know with every fiber of my being that my husband would have killed himself if it was not for Frankie. It is shocking to see that they understand it. He was at an AA meeting almost a year ago and there were 29 people in the group and John is the only one who is with his original spouse. This has not been a cake walk but this dog and the Animals for Armed Forces have done wonders!