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For over 13 years, United States Army Veteran, Shawn, lived his life in constant fear. Taking his wife and children to dinner was no longer an enjoyable family activity. If Shawn could make it in the front door of the restaurant, his mind immediately started scanning the room for which table would be the safest, which table would allow him to see every exit in the building in case he needed a quick escape, which table would allow him to put his back against a wall so he felt a slight sense of protection, which table would give him the best view of the other patrons in the restaurant to identify who was a threat. The ever-present feeling of needing to protect his family was unbearable, and Shawn would not be able to remain in the restaurant. This is just a slight glimpse into what Shawn was experiencing on a daily basis because of his service-connected disability after bravely serving our country for more than a decade. After leaving the service, it was rare that he left the house. Going into a grocery store to get milk became a distressing task. Even fly fishing, Shawn’s passion prior to his service, became too daunting. For 13 years, Shawn could not sleep for more than several hours a night.
Defeated, exhausted and ready for his life to change, Shawn applied to Canines for Veterans. After a year of anxiously waiting for his service dog, Shawn met Forest. During their team training, with Forest by his side, Shawn was able to enjoy meals out in restaurants, and enter a store and buy a blouse for his wife, unaware he had been browsing for an hour. By the end of the week, he was sleeping better, and after a few months Forest learned to wake him from his near-constant nightmares. In 2018, Shawn hiked over 1,300 miles of the Appalachian Trail with Forest by his side. He is fly-fishing again, and even driving 5-6 hours alone to meet friends to fish for days at a time; something he would not have dreamed of doing before receiving Forest.