Tim & Cypress
“Relief and pure love”
As a U.S. Army and National Guard veteran, Tim has received counseling and medication from the VA to address his post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), anxiety, and sense of unworthiness around the veteran community because he was never deployed in a combat situation. Although Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) therapy and meds helped with his recurring memories and negative self-image, they aggravated his hyperarousal and hypervigilance. “Sounds like firetrucks or loud motorcycles shut me down physically and hurt my entire body,” recalls Tim.
After reading an article about service dogs, Tim decided to apply with Freedom Service Dogs for one of his own. “I grew up with dogs and started seeing how vets were benefitting from alternate PTSD treatment programs. I suffer severe social anxiety and had been isolating myself from people. I knew a service dog would give me a way to work through the anxiety and reset and center myself.”
Tim was matched with a yellow Labrador retriever named Cypress, and together they attended FSD’s two-week placement class. “I had no idea what to expect beforehand, but I knew the class was all vets from diverse backgrounds and experiences. The class was really fun, and I felt safe expressing myself freely and talking about my trauma.”
Tim and Cypress graduated in June 2022, and Cypress has become a much-loved constant in her veteran’s life. She accompanies Tim to his job at a VA hospital, where he works as a dietetic nutrition tech, and on outdoor adventures (a former fishing and class-four whitewater guide, Tim and his husband love fishing, rafting, paddleboarding, and Frisbee golf).
Whether at home or away, Cypress is helping Tim achieve his two biggest goals: resocialization and lowering his anxiety level. She uses the “nudge” and “rest” cues to interrupt anxious behaviors and help ground Tim in the moment. “When I experience anxiety triggered by loud noises, she rests her head on my arm or lap while I do breathing exercises. When I’m having insomnia, I curl up on the floor with her and generally fall asleep again. I believe the overall reduction of anxiety is being achieved through the deep-pressure therapy she continuously provides. And I have found more relief from my insomnia than I ever thought was possible without using meds.”
Adds Tim, “I believe she is lowering my anxiety level by helping me achieve another huge goal of being grounded in the minute. It was impossible to get out of my head and the inner dialogue loop before I started medication. She augments that by keeping me in the present. Dogs don’t have timelines because they only live in one time frame, the now.”
“Don’t ever forget that if you get a service dog from FSD, you are never alone. You have your furry battle buddy. You have the support of the FSD team who are always there for us. You also belong to a larger community of veterans who were brave enough to get a service dog and commit to their recovery. We are always there for you, and we will never stop being your advocate.”
Cypress’s influence was evident when they flew together to visit Tim’s family last year. “I’m dealing with my aging parents and their memory issues, which requires patience and kindness,” says Tim. “I’m really happy that Cypress was there to assist me with my anxiety and frequent mood shifts. I was calmer and much less angry than during my visit the previous year.”
In terms of resocialization, Tim says that with Cypress’s help, he talks to other veterans in the hospital lobby during his breaks at work. “She serves well as an icebreaker by letting me enter conversations without having to make the first engagement. The other vets’ eyes light up when they see her, and it’s endearing that there is carryover love from her for the rest of my community.”
Thanks to Cypress, Tim is now able to say, “I feel like some of my PTSD symptoms are becoming manageable or at least tolerable, and I look forward to the future.” At the same time, Tim is emphatic that unconditional love goes both ways. “For all the relief and pure love Cypress provides me, she gets a great life. I am confident that she is happy and well taken care of. Her coat is soft as velvet, and she is absolutely beautiful. I had two people tell me this week that she looks proud when she walks on a leash, and you can tell by her swagger!”
When asked what he would tell a fellow veteran about his experience with FSD, Tim says, “Don’t ever forget that if you get a service dog from FSD, you are never alone. You have your furry battle buddy. You have the support of the FSD team who are always there for us. You also belong to a larger community of veterans who were brave enough to get a service dog and commit to their recovery. We are always there for you, and we will never stop being your advocate.”
To learn more about applying for a Freedom Service Dog, click HERE.