Mitch Chapman of Davenport, Iowa, was injured while serving with the Illinois National Guard in Afghanistan in 2008. In 2014, Puppy Jake, a Des Moines-based charity that raises service dogs to help veterans, paired Bob with Mitch. Since then, Mitch’s life has become “almost normal” again.
How were you injured?
Our mine-resistant, ambush-protected (MRAP) vehicle hit an IED buried in the road. I suffered compression fractures in my spine, mild traumatic brain injury, hearing loss, a left shoulder injury and PTSD. I was beat up all over. It was a wild ride. My commander was in the seat next to me and he had a head injury—got his brain rattled. And my friend was in the gun and he was ejected and killed. It’s been a long road while recovering.
How are you these days?
I still suffer. But Bob helps my PTSD and with mobility. I can use him as a brace and stability. When I am on the floor and can’t get up, I can push off Bob and brace. He picks things up off the floor because it is hard for me to bend over. He gets me moving again when I fall or am feeling weak.
I don’t like crowds or going out. There are too many people. I get hypervigilant—on alert in panic mode, scanning the crowd for threats. I go back into a war mindset. And I can’t take medication for panic attacks or anxiety to stay calm. But having Bob has helped me relax enough that, for the first time, I was able to go on my daughter’s field trip. He was there to support and calm me whenever I was feeling anxious. He was on my side.
Another time he spent 20 minutes just resting his paw on me when I wanted to be left alone. Finally, I just started playing with him, then I felt better. In a sense, he knows before I really know what is going on.
He has helped me be able to go out instead of being just stuck in the house or in a drug-induced coma from all the medication. He allows me to go out and live a better life. I’m not sure you want to call it normal, but I’m not stuck at home.
It seems like he’s doing more than just what he was trained for.
They train them to do physical tasks. But this is the bond you develop. He just knows. He also does blocking—like if people come up too fast, he will get between me and them. One day I wasn’t paying attention and told Bob to lay down. But he automatically spun around and started watching my back. He knew. In the military, you always have somebody watching your back. You are watching theirs, they are watching yours. When you get home, you don’t have that. Having Bob gives me a sense of security. It’s like I’ve got my buddy at my back again.
So life is better now?
He doesn’t only help me, he has helped the family overall. My wife can tell you how he has helped bring me back. I’m not how I used to be, but closer. I’m calmer. Everybody else is calmer. The kids are happier. It is just amazing. I grew up on a farm. And we had a dog. I knew they were really smart. I guess I never realized how smart they were. He amazes me.
Learn more at puppyjakefoundation.org.