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A War Hero's Best Friend

As Maggie Barth, 26, sat on her couch watching TV one night last year, a sudden noise outside made her bolt upright. "My heart began beating so fast I thought my chest might explode," she says. Deep down, Maggie knew the noise was nothing, but she couldn't shake the fear. Her entire body clenched as she gasped for breath. Within seconds, Maggie's hound mix, Battle, jumped on the couch and started licking her face. She wrapped her arms around him and soon the panic attack passed. It wasn't the first time Battle had calmed Maggie's nerves, and it won't be the last.

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Six years ago, Maggie, an Army sergeant and combat nurse, was deployed to Iraq for two harrowing tours of duty. All the horror she witnessed there followed her home to Jacksonville, FL. "The injuries were so awful," she says. And when a soldier lost his life, it was almost unbearable. "You never forget any of it." Like nearly 20% of troops who have served in Iraq and Afghanistan, Maggie suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)—a condition so disabling that she couldn't hold a job or live alone when she first got back. "My sister had to move in with me, because I was always running to the neighbors in a panic, thinking that intruders had broken into my house," she says. She hated to go to sleep because of the recurring nightmares. Even a trip to the supermarket could trigger a panic attack if someone stood too close to her in line. "I couldn't do anything on my own," says Maggie.

The biggest difference now, however, is Battle, "my savior," she says. The two met seven months ago, after Maggie's mom researched treatments for PTSD online and found K9s For Warriors, a Ponte Vedra Beach, FL, charity that provides free service dogs (many, like Battle, from shelters) for vets with physical or psychological wounds from post- 9/11 wars. "He flew into the room so fast that all I saw were big ears and a wagging tail," says Maggie. "It was love at first sight." And Maggie had the perfect name for him. "In Iraq, we were told, 'Never go anywhere without a battle buddy to watch your back.' That's exactly what he does for me."

To prepare for his new role, Battle went through three months of training at K9s For Warriors' headquarters to earn his service dog certification. And while Maggie still struggles to overcome the trauma of Iraq, she's finding it easier to cope, thanks to her furry friend. "If I have a nightmare and wake up in a panic, he's right there to comfort me. He'll lick me, roll all over the bed and just act goofy so I focus on him instead of my memories." He's also given Maggie back her independence. "I'm enjoying a lot more freedom and a lot less fear." All because her Battle buddy has got her back.

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Date: 06.12.2018, 11:52 / Views: 75354