Iraq Vet Gets Dog, New Chance at Life
Sgt. Bill Campbell's dog watches his back and reminds him to take medicine.
March 19, 2008 — -- Until recently, Sgt. Bill Campbell's horrifying memories from his tour of duty in Iraq left him unable to leave his house.
Constantly fearing he would be attacked from behind — a paranoia stemming from his violent tour of duty — Campbell says his post traumatic stress disorder symptoms made everyday life virtually unbearable.
That is, until he met Pax, a now 17-month-old yellow Labrador, specially trained to help him cope with PTSD, doing everything from reminding him to take his medication to coaxing him out of his house.
"Pax forces me to go out," Campbell told ABCNEWS.com. "He has to go for walks."
Pax was donated to Campbell by the N.Y.-based non-profit organization Puppies Behind Bars, an organization that has provided service dogs to individuals with disabilities since 1997, but just recently expanded their program to include war veterans, too.
And when Campbell, 46, returned from Iraq in 2005, help was exactly what he needed. In addition to being diagnosed with PTSD, car bombs had sprayed shrapnel in his hand and head, causing nerve damage and traumatic brain injury.
"I have anxiety, depression and really exaggerated start response," said Campbell, who spent several weeks in a veteran's hospital near his hometown in Shelton, Wash., about 60 miles west of Seattle. "And memory problems."
Pax, who is the first dog to be deployed by Puppies Behind Bar's new initiative "Dog Tags: Service Dogs for Those Who've Served Us," knows more than 50 different commands. He warns Campbell of strangers or possible dangers, clears crowded areas and provides a reality check when Campbell gets lost in hallucinations or nightmares.
"It does help that he can protect my back," said Campbell, of Pax's training to always keep an eye on his back. "If I go places and tell him to sit, he faces the opposite direction and it's comforting."
"Pax will lie down, and if someone is coming up from behind me, he'll sit up and warn me," said Campbell. "Then I'll know someone's coming."