Last week, I attended my niece’s dance recital.
There are so many things people take for granted. Going to the grocery store. Spending the day out with their friends. Answering the door when they hear a knock. For many years, I wasn’t able to do any of these things without a sense of panic and despair. I couldn’t talk to a stranger on the street. Trips to the grocery store were done at odd hours and as quickly as possible. Most of my shopping was done online. I could only stay at family events for about 15 minutes before bolting home.
My time served in the Army during Desert Shield/Desert Storm had taught me to see the enemy in every man. As I grew older, I took that lesson to heart, and withdrew more and more into my only safe haven, shutting myself away from the world.
Then, last December, my therapist and psychiatrist recommended I go to Operation Freedom Paws and speak to Mary Cortani about a service dog. After a single interview with Mary, she matched me with Shadow, and my life was changed.
Every morning, Shadow curls up with me on the bed, and helps me orient myself. He is with me every step of the day, ready to lean up against me and help me focus myself back on the present. He watches the world around me, giving me a sense of safety and security.
Mary Cortani and Operation Freedom Paws have given me my life back. Without Shadow, I would still be hiding in my house, hoping the rest of the world would just go away. And last Saturday, I watched my niece dance a solo of Swan Lake. That wouldn’t have been possible without Shadow and Operation Freedom Paws.