Thursday, 28 October 2021
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Hometown Column: Service dog calms veteran with PTSD symptoms

BOLTON — The bombings started at 8:30 in the morning.

U.S. Army veteran Scott Baur worked nights when he was stationed in Iraq and knew the bombs would start going off.

“You’d be sitting in the chow hall and you’d get knocked off your seat,” said Baur, sitting on his grandmother’s back deck in Bolton Landing last month.

Next to him was his newly trained service dog, a plott hound named Mack.

Baur and Mack were recently united through a Florida-based service dog training program called K9s for Warriors. June was PTSD Awareness Month.

Baur, who served two tours, suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder caused by his time spent in war-torn Baghdad in 2008. Besides the daily bombings, he remembers a specific event that changed his life.

During his first tour on the Sinai Peninsula, he was part of a team that was charged in keeping the peace between Egypt and Israel. Toward the end of the tour, he watched a suicide bomber drive a vehicle-borne improvised explosive device, also known as a VBIED, into a hotel, taking down a third of the building.

“It was a very impacting moment that I had at that point,” Baur said.

He also suffered a non-combat related back injury in which he broke his L5 vertebrae, requiring surgery and an 18-month hospital stay at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C.

He thought his nightmare was over, but then a friend of his committed suicide while at Walter Reed.

“And it never hit the news,” he said. “Twenty-three guys killed themselves the first month I was there in January of ‘09. The suicide rate is so high.”

He was discharged April 12, 2010, and went back to his home in New Jersey as a very different and troubled man. He said he felt unstoppable. He wanted to commit “suicide by cop.” He would drive his motorcycle 90 mph, weaving in and out of traffic.

He was in two accidents — one in which he shattered his humerus in his left arm when he was hit by a tractor-trailer while riding a motorcycle.

PTSD takes away your feelings, Baur said. The disorder led to his divorce.

“You come home numb. You come home numb,” he said. “You don’t have any feelings. They’re all gone. I think that’s one of the hardest things. I came home and I pushed everybody away.”

And as many veterans with PTSD do, he started doing drugs, which served as his wake-up call. He had attended a PTSD program in New Jersey, but he knew he needed more help. He decided to go through the program a second time, and it helped. His counselor suggested the K9s for Warriors program.

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In the meantime, he had moved to Bolton Landing to take care of his now 92-year-old grandmother. He had been familiar with the area for years, because his family had a cabin on Puddle Bay.

Baur flew down to Florida in May and was paired with Mack for the three-week-long instructional program. Mack had been rescued himself from a high-kill shelter.

“It was like a bunch of bricks came off my back,” said Baur, who met Mack on his second day at the training.

He wasn’t sure he would like having a dog with him at all times, but the two are now inseparable, even going to the grocery store together. Since meeting Mack, Baur’s anxiety has lessened and his feelings of numbness have dissipated.

“You actually start to get your feelings back,” he said.

If Mack senses Baur becoming anxious, he rubs his head into Baur to get his attention and alert him to what’s happening. The two practice commands like “sit,” “stand,” “block” and “cover” on a weekly basis.

If Baur asks him to “block,” Mack will stand between Baur and another person. If he’s asked to “cover” at an ATM, he stands by Baur’s side and looks backward.

“He’s very, very calm,” Baur said. “He keeps me more calm.”

Source: http://www.oleantimesherald.com/news/state/hometown-column-service-dog-calms-veteran-with-ptsd-symptoms/article_cd5a3959-f5b6-5f90-96ee-ef64bf4bc01b.html

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