NESCONSET, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) — Two Long Island Vietnam Veterans were gifted with life changing animals on Tuesday, just in time for Christmas.
Larry Keating and Bill Thumm both have waited 50 years to receive a service dog.
“I had a drug problem. I had an alcohol problem. I had an attitude problem. I had PTSD [post-traumatic stress disorder], none of which was treated,” Keating said. “I did get clean and sober 10 years later.”
“The PTSD is overwhelming,” Thumm told CBS2’s Charlie Cooper. “There are times where I am so depressed and there are times when I have flashbacks. There are times when I just don’t know where I am. The night terrors, the nightmares.”
No longer will they have to suffer in silence thanks to Paws of War and Unsung Siblings Foundation gifting them with partially trained service dogs. Their new owners will finish the job in the next year.
Paws of War rescues and trains dogs to become service and therapy pets. They’re then matched with veterans and given to them for free.
“Task training could be anything from a medical alert,” said Paws of War co-founder Robert Messeri. “It could be something where we design a bedspread to have a ball on it to pull the bedspread off the individual when he’s having night traumas.”
Keating, a psychotherapist who helps other veterans recover, got a rescued 3-year-old female black lab named Midnight. She’ll serve as a service dog for him and a therapy dog for his patients.
“I’ve already been trained with her a couple of times and you’re almost looking at a soul in her — it’s just incredible the bond in just three meetings that her and I have already,” he said.
Thumm was paired with a 4-year-old chocolate lab named Lydia.
“It’s like a dream come true,” Thumm said. “She’s going to set up my Christmas. It’s just… I don’t know how to put it into words.”
“The needs now are critical for these two guys and that’s why it’s important for us to be able to do this now,” Messeri said.
Paws of War matches about six rescue dogs a year with veterans in an effort to help both the vets and their new animals heal side by side.