Veteran Finds Hope and Healing Through Loving Service Dog

Though she wasn’t trained for service at the start, Lily’s warmth and happy energy made her the perfect service dog for Sarah.

Sarah + Lily

Sarah, a U.S. Air Force veteran, was looking for a companion animal to help relieve her PTSD. She thought a service dog might help, and then she found Lily—who turned out to be the best service dog Sarah could imagine.

"This wonderful dog has enabled me to leave the house and drive by myself. She saved my life and my marriage. She is my rock... my love... my beautiful Lily."

I retired from the U.S. Air Force after 20 years and three days, and I suffer from PTSD. I moved to San Antonio, Texas two years ago, and there I learned about a 501c3 that helps veterans with PTSD called Lone Star Paws 4 A Cause. They provide free service dog training to veterans with PTSD.

I thought something like this could be helpful for me, so decided to adopt a dog to be my companion. I found my puppy at the Animal Defense League of San Antonio. When I found Lily, I knew she was the one. She was so full of life, energy, and love. She also had some unique personality quirks that were just endearing. The ADL requested that we spend a little more time with her to make sure. But I knew this was my girl. 

A little back story on my pretty Lily: when she was originally found, she was a San Antonio street dog, covered in fleas and ticks. The ADL rescued and spayed her. Prior to me finding this amazing dog, somebody else had adopted her and returned her to the ADL after 30 days. They said she was destructive and absolutely could not be around cats. Both statements were untrue. They also said that she ran like a gazelle and loved her squeaky toys. There couldn’t be a truer description of my Lily, ever! 

This wonderful girl is an amazing leaper; she does superhero landings! And I have never seen a dog who is so meticulous about fluffing and arranging her bed as this beautiful pup. She is also a very aggressive kisser! After we adopted her, Ms. Gina from Lone Star Paws 4 A Cause came to our home to evaluate her potential as a service animal. Ms. Gina had initial concerns about Lily due to her fears of going into our living room. My husband and I finally realized that she feared the smell from a cowhide we had as a carpet. After we removed it, her fear of the room vanished.

A year and a half after her training started as a service animal, Lily is now a certified service dog. This is especially impressive since Ms. Gina had severe reservations about Lily’s ability to become a service animal, and Lily is now one of her star pupils. My girl knows the following commands: sit, down, off, cover, block, up, leave it, behind, heel, and eyes (aka focus). Lily is also the most amazing dog when traveling in a car and on a plane (people don’t realize she is there.) She is an absolute love bug, and she wants to play with all children. This wonderful dog has enabled me to leave the house and drive by myself. She saved my life and my marriage. She is my rock… my love… my beautiful Lily. 

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 Sarah won Animal Defense League of Texas in San Antonio, Texas a 2021 Love Stories award.