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Veterans get help with civilian life thanks to service dogs

Connecticut

WINCHESTER, Conn. (WTNH) – Veterans are getting help dealing with physical and emotional scars thanks to a service dog non-profit in Winchester.

Emoji is a service dog in training. She is working with Jim Foley, who knows all about service from his time in the Marine Corps. He saw combat in the first Iraq War. Then he kept seeing it in flashbacks and nightmares.

“There was a FROG missile that went across our position, so to me, I was living that all over again,” Foley said.

Fear kept Foley alone in his house, until he heard about Educated Canines Assisting with Disabilities, ECAD for short. Lu Picard and her husband started ECAD 25 years ago after her father had a stroke.

“I trained one of our house dogs just to do two simple tasks – pull him up off the couch and retrieve his remote control,” Picard explained. “Those two tasks made him feel independent.”

Foley and two other veterans are in the middle of an intense course to train both man and his best friend. For two weeks, they are living together at ECAD’s Winchester headquarters. The dogs can help with physical challenges and psychological ones. That’s where Emoji shines.

“If I have a nightmare in the middle of the night, or if I have a flashback during the day, that’s her thing,” Foley said of Emoji. “She can take me out of that and bring me back to the here and now.”

The work of identifying and retrieving stuff inside the training facility is just the beginning. Over the next week the dogs, and their people, are going to be going out and doing stuff in the real world.

“So we do some night training with them, so what does a dog do when you come out and, with all the cars, lights, and people, you don’t see as clearly,” Picard said. “We’ll do restaurants, we’ll do the mall.”

Those are all places Jim wants to go, now that he has some help.

“I hate to say it, but I thought of suicide a couple times in the past, just to get rid of the nightmares and everything. Just to get it to end,” Foley said. “But I know I have some hope in the future with Emoji being with me and keeping me safe.”

And since it was Jim’s job to keep us all safe, that makes Emoji a very good girl.

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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