Service Dog Helps Veteran Thrive Through COVID-19 Lockdown

For Chau, a dog named Apollo was his guiding light through the pandemic, offering consistent hope and support.

Chau + Apollo

Chau began working with Operation Freedom Paws just before the COVID-19 lockdown began. Throughout the pandemic, his service dog, Apollo, helped Chau find healing and hope for the future. 

"After my injuries from the Army, I felt like a broken human being. Through working with my service dog, Apollo, I was able to slowly put back together the pieces of my life."

In Greek mythology, Apollo is the Greek god of sun and light. In the case of my service dog, Apollo, he is the light that helped pull me out of the darkness. I first met Apollo in March 2020 when the COVID-19 pandemic lockdown first began. The timing of it couldn’t have been any better. I was paired with Apollo through Operation Freedom Paws (OFP), a nonprofit organization that helps disabled military veterans by providing mentoring and training with service dogs. The dogs come from local shelters and are rescues themselves, so both service dogs and handlers work together to give each other a second chance.

After my injuries from the Army, I felt like a broken human being. Through working with my service dog Apollo, I was able to slowly put back together the pieces of my life. It is through my bond with him that I understand what unconditional love is really like. It’s amazing how you can apply what you learn while training with your service dog to other aspects of your life. Teaching Apollo about boundaries has helped me create boundaries in the relationships that I share with others. Learning how to calm Apollo down and getting him to settle has helped me alleviate my anxiety in stressful situations. And watching Apollo just be silly and rolling on his back has made me realize that no matter how serious life may get, there is always some time for belly rubs.

I wouldn’t have survived the 2020 lockdown and COVID-19 pandemic without Apollo’s help. I lost my job, dealt with the deaths of my Army friends, and watched as the country I swore to defend lose thousands of American citizens every day during the worst of the pandemic. However, no matter how bad it got, my dog was by my side. Apollo was my light and beacon of hope during all these dark times. He is my reason for getting up in the morning because someone has to take him out to go potty.

Operation Freedom Paws saves two lives every time a disabled veteran and service dog team-up. I know that no matter what I do in life, I can never fully repay the people who united me with my dog Apollo. However, I will try my best to contribute what I can. 

Each year, Petco Love Stories invites adopters to share how their pets have changed their lives to give the organizations that they’ve adopted from the chance to receive grant awards. This story by Chau won Operation Freedom Paws in Gilroy, California a 2021 Love Stories award.