Service dogs: “They become a part of your family,” says military veteran

Local News

PORT ISABEL, Texas (ValleyCentral) — Eight years ago, one Port Isabel couple was prescribed a service dog to aid with their body ailments and PTSD, and now that dog is part of the family.

Bryan and Bridgette Eggers are United States Navy veterans who were both medically discharged.

Bridgette fell flat on her back on a concrete pier in February 1993 while on active duty in Pearl Harbor. She now has a bulging L5, S1 with a pinched nerve and recently found out that she has Multiple Sclerosis.

Bryan said he has knee problems from being aboard a ship as a standing guard. He also injured his back while on duty in the Middle East.

The Eggers tried to attend PTSD classes, but Bryan said he couldn’t bring himself to go to one, so after Bridgette went to a few, her doctor prescribed them with a service animal.

According to the Eggers, the first step to getting one was being put into a room full of dogs to see which they were most compatible with and that’s where they met Shadow, their current service dog.

“It was at the time where she was not feeling very well and cramping, having really bad body aches,” said Bryan. “He came over and laid his down right in her lap. He picked her.”

After being paired up with Shadow, Bryan said they trained with the Train a Dog. Save a Warrior program for 1,000 hours. The TADSAW program also paid for all the fees included with getting Shadow such as adoption, medical, and training.

Shadow was taught how to brace which lets him know to put all of his weight on his front two paws so the Eggers can use him to sit up and down. He was also taught to cover which means to stand behind them to make sure no one comes up from behind unexpectedly.

Along with the commands that meet the Eggers’ needs, Shadow was taught to know when anyone in the family is in pain as well as the basic commands of sit, lay down, and come.

“They become part of your family, but they are not a pet,” said Bryan.

Bryan is hoping to bring awareness that although emotional support and service animals both provide comfort that they are completely different from one another.

An emotional support animal is for average day PTSD such as anxiety and depression, but a service animal has needs to fulfill for that person in their physical abilities as well, according to Bryan.

An emotional support animal can be provided by a physical physician, but a service animal is given as a prescription through a mental health doctor.

Bryan added that emotional support animals are not typically allowed in public places whereas a service animal is. While out in public places, it’s important not to pet or give any attention to the service animal as it could distract them from their job.

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