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    Tiny Service Dog Helps Brain-Injured Vet

    December 2nd, 2011

    When most people think of service dogs, they think of a Labrador Retriever or German Shepherd helping a blind person navigate the world. That’s why Chloe is so unexpected.

    Chloe is a 17-pound mutt (best guess is that she is a mix of Bichon Frise, Poodle, and Shih Tzu) that was living in an animal shelter, scheduled to be killed. Instead, she found a second life as a service dog for Marine Dan Sauer. The big Marine and the teensy dog make an unlikely pair. But they help each other.

    According to an article in the Daily Herald, Sauer was in the service for eight years, including nearly 10 months in Kuwait during Desert Storm. He was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder 13 years ago.

    During the war, Sauer suffered a traumatic brain injury from a mortar round that also tore the retina in his left eye, damaged a fingernail on his left hand and affected his memory. Sauer’s experience overseas and PTSD made him bunker down at home and avoid people. For years, he didn’t seek treatment for PTSD.

    “I’m a Marine,” Sauer said, describing his mentality before he finally got help. “Just deal with it; that’s all.”

    Chloe helps by sensing when Sauer is aggravated, angry or stressed, and then to distract him from those feelings. She also senses when he is having nightmares and wakes him up at night…cuddles close to help de-stress him…and protects Sauer’s personal space by standing between him and other people. It sounds simple, but the effects are dramatic. In the time that he has had Chloe, Sauer is able to leave the house and live a relatively normal life.

    He’ll run errands, go for walks and participate in and attend school functions, all with the dog in tow. He’s also a lot more social and cracking more jokes.

    But one problem keeps popping up:  Many people don’t understand Chloe’s job as a service dog. Shop owners will tell him that he is not allowed to bring his pet in the shop, and restaurants try to refuse to seat him. But service dogs are allowed by law to accompany their disabled owner nearly everywhere. Sauer takes every opportunity to educate people about the valuable role service dogs can play in rehabilitating brain-injured war vets.

    It’s a great relationship for everyone—for Sauer, for Chloe, for Sauer’s family, for Sauer’s community. And it’s a great lesson for the rest of us that sometimes disabilities are invisible…and sometimes even the smallest creatures can help change the course of a life.

    To read the full story in the Daily Herald, click here:  Tiny service dog heals Hampshire Marine