USSDR Blog Banner

Service dog helps ease Frederick Veteran’s PTSD

Service dog helps ease Frederick Veteran’s PTSD

Anup No Comments August 17, 2022
blog title

Joe Nieves, 40, sank into the couch of his living room. His PTSD service dog, Jem, a 3-year-old Labrador-golden retriever mix, hopped up next to him and rested her head on his thigh. He started petting her, running his hands over her ears.

Jem is a service dog specially trained to help veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder, like Nieves. Jem is a buffer for Nieves when he feels overwhelmed or disconnected from the world, he said.

The two were paired in March. She has helped him more than he could have imagined, he said.

Nieves, an Army veteran, was diagnosed with bipolar disorder and PTSD in 2006.

He also has anxiety stemming from his deployments to Iraq in 2004 and 2005, he said. Like many veterans, he carries invisible scars of what he witnessed overseas.

“It’s funny, because a lot of the things that haunt people are the things that happened to them,” he said. “And things did happen to me, but the things that haunt me the most are the things I saw happen to those around me.”

Because of Jem, Nieves went to his first event in about five years — Awesome Con, Washington D.C.’s Comic Con convention, in June, which attracts tens of thousands of “geek culture” fans.

Jem is trained to perform many tasks to assist Nieves. Most helpful, Nieves said, is how she helps him with anxiety in public. For example, she can be a barrier, standing either in front of or behind him to prevent people from getting too close.

She can enter places before Nieves does, which takes the pressure off him, he said. He’s an introvert, and people shift their attention to Jem instead of him when they walk in.

“I think it’s a side effect of the command. For me, that’s really good because the eyes aren’t on me, they’re on her … and that’s really refreshing,” he said.

A lot happened to Nieves during his deployment. To this day, one event sticks out.

One night, Nieves was monitoring a checkpoint at his base in Iraq and a mortar hit a building 100 yards from where he was standing. Six or seven soldiers were sleeping inside, he said. The roof of the building exploded in a shroud of metal.

“It was like slow motion, like in the movies. It’s just pure, slow motion. … It’s like the 100 yards just shot forward, and it’s just sitting in my eyes and in my face,” he said.

He heard the mortars before they hit. In that moment, he said, he knew what mortal fear was. He didn’t know whether to move or stay where he was to avoid getting hit.

Luckily, all of the soldiers survived with minimal injuries, he said. But the possibility of losing his entire squad that night haunts him.

In 2012, he was medically retired from the military.

Nieves tried many things to cope with anxiety, but they never stuck. For example, his wife, Katharina Nieves, got him a camera for when he went out with his two daughters.

“The camera was to help me focus down through the viewfinder. So I’m not seeing everything else. I’m just seeing her and my girls when I looked through the viewfinder,” Nieves said.

He knew service dogs were an option, but he was discouraged from getting one. It wasn’t until around 2018, when he met the service dog of a veteran friend during Wounded Warrior Project support group meetings, that he felt reinvigorated that a service dog could help him.

In 2019, he put himself on a list for Canine Companions.

Canine Companions has six training centers across the U.S. and spends roughly $50,000 to raise and train each dog, said John Bentzinger, a public relations and marketing coordinator for the organization.

A veteran goes through an extensive process to get a service dog. Nieves said the organization’s matching process goes well.

The organization picks multiple dogs that could be paired with a veteran. It didn’t take long for Nieves to realize who his would be. It was love at first pet.

“She really was perfect, the perfect amount of energy,” Nieves said.

Jem has been a game changer outside the home, Nieves said, and has become part of his family. Nieves has another dog, an energetic and attention-seeking French bulldog named Nemesis. She’s lovely, he said, but Jem provides something different.

“The love and affection, like I’ve experienced before, but it’s different with her and not in a better way than the other dog in the way that only she can provide,” he said. “I’m eternally grateful … even for just having somebody lay on the couch with me.”


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Preloader
X
SERVICE DOG ID CARD USA Service Animal Registration Your Service Dog ID card will include our convenient QR Code for a quick scan link to our registry lookup. By simply entering your dog\'s registration number your official registered profile will be accessible for quick verification in the event the validity of your service dog is ever questioned. 2054
$29.99
Product Image
5 12047
Adjustment... - by , March 25, 2011
4/ 4stars
Disorder is what I thought was originally submitted. After a misunderstanding, an order (became) submitted. Thank you.
ID Card - by , March 25, 2011
5/ 5stars
Great, no problems.
Psychiatric Representative - Robin Didn't Provide Helpful Information - by , March 25, 2011
5/ 5stars
I want a refund. This place denied my service animal and proceeded to not provide avenues to eventually get him certified. It took an act of god to get this woman, Robin, to tell me the minimum age requirements and she couldn't tell me training certification requirements. She simply said "if a check in counter agent at the airport sees you dog looking around, they aren't going to think he's trained" What kind of insensible response is that?
Good - by , March 25, 2011
5/ 5stars
I haven’t got it yet but I’ll probably like it
Can't wait to see them. - by , March 25, 2011
5/ 5stars
Haven't received them yet so it will take a few days to get here.
Dog registration - by , March 25, 2011
5/ 5stars
Excellent service. Very prompt.
Quick, easy, painless - by , March 25, 2011
3/ 3stars
Great experience, easy to do, just wish the identifying gear was more affordable or they offered a coupon of sorts. Cards came in less than a wk.
Super easy!! - by , March 25, 2011
5/ 5stars
It was the easiest thing i’ve ever done. Plus, I accidentally bought something extra and instead of just taking the money, they reimbursed me!!
It's official - by , March 25, 2011
5/ 5stars
Now my Ivy can come with me everywhere. I'm greatful my furry friend can enjoy life with me.
Thanks - by , March 25, 2011
5/ 5stars
It's amazing
- by , March 25, 2011
5/ 5stars
I received my order really fast. I am very pleased
Excellent - by , March 25, 2011
5/ 5stars
The Best of The Best.
Great Service - by , March 25, 2011
5/ 5stars
My experience was great! Timely fashioned and made my worries to an ease! Thank you guys a lot!
Very easy - by , March 25, 2011
5/ 5stars
I had to get a clip to make it more visible
Fast delivery - by , March 25, 2011
5/ 5stars
Great customer service fast delivery easy to order
- by , March 25, 2011
5/ 5stars
So far everything has been going good , still waiting on my order to arrive. Once I get the package I will let you know at that time of my full satisfaction of my purchase
Great - by , March 25, 2011
5/ 5stars
It was fabulous.
- by , March 25, 2011
2/ 2stars
Still haven't gotten a call for housing and landlord letter even though I paid extra for the 24 hour service
My dog - by , March 25, 2011
5/ 5stars
I love it, now I can take my dog with me everywhere I go
Good service - by , March 25, 2011
5/ 5stars
I bought these items for my dog. The shipping is really fast. It comes earlier than I expected. The ID help my dog can access a lot of place for free. I can take my dog go on airplane and hotel for free. I can take him to restaurant. Now my dog with me everywhere.