Service Dog Brings Peace and Healing to Veteran

Returning from deployment triggered a healing journey for Megan, who sought recovery from trauma. A service dog named Bailey turned out to be her saving grace.

Megan + Bailey

When Megan returned from a deployment to the Middle East, she soon realized she had to recover physically and mentally from her service as well. Just as it was becoming too taxing to “soldier on,” a military service dog named Bailey helped Megan learn to thrive.

"When they brought Bailey into the meeting room, he gently jumped into my arms and gave me the biggest hug. This dog was literally holding on to me (this would later become Bailey's signature move). And with that, Bailey started his journey of saving my life."

When I came home from deployment in the Middle East in 2011, I did not yet understand that combating the mental and physical aftermath would almost be a bigger fight. When I realized I needed help, I spent nearly a year working with different professionals, taking a plethora of medications, and desperately searching for some relief. Somewhere along the way, a counselor had mentioned a service dog, but at that time, Veteran’s Affairs would not prescribe psychiatric service dogs. The weight of trying to “soldier on” was getting to be more than I could handle, and the side effects from the medications alone were too much to bear. So as one final attempt, I began looking into service dogs.

The training would be exhaustive (rightfully so) but selecting the perfect four-legged candidate was also challenging. I was looking for a younger, large-breed female with the perfect temperament. I visited many dogs before coming across Bailey. Not only was he not young or female, but he was also jumping and intensely barking at the kennel door. I’m not sure a sane person would have selected, or even considered, Bailey to be their potential service dog. Luckily for both of us, I had seemingly lost my sanity months prior. When they brought Bailey into the meeting room, he gently jumped into my arms and gave me the biggest hug. This dog was literally holding on to me (this would later become Bailey’s signature move to win over all the ladies in college). And with that, Bailey started his journey of saving my life in June of 2013.

Once I had my service dog, I quickly realized Bailey had more quirks and “special” behaviors than I had expected. His basic obedience was questionable, and he barely responded to his name. But once we got on the same page, his ability to help me was immeasurable.

Bailey knows when I’m afraid, anxious, excited, or sad before I do and reacts accordingly to help. He wakes me up from night terrors, can pull me to the nearest exit, and bump my leg when I start to lose focus, just to name a few things. He attended and graduated from Lake Erie College with me, moved across the country for our first year of teaching, helped me move back across the country when I realized I couldn’t tolerate the Arizona heat, and has been vital to my teaching career. But above all, he is my best friend. There was plenty of training for exact commands and behaviors, but you can’t teach the type of bond we have.

SSG Bailey is now 16 and living his best-retired life. (SSG is the term for a U.S. Army Staff Sergeant; service dogs always outrank their handlers so the dogs will always be cared for and treated with the utmost respect.) I would like to say the quality of my life has improved because of Bailey. However, the reality is that my life would not have continued without him. 

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 Megan won Lake Humane Society in Mentor, Ohio a 2021 Love Stories award.