Navy Veteran Explains How Her Service Dog Saved Her Life

Dogs are amazing companions. They have such a calming and loving presence that you can’t help but feel invigorated with positivity when you’re around them. That is why they make such wonderful companions for people who are struggling with mental health problems, such as anxiety or PTSD. And many members of the armed forces will end up developing such problems, which is why having service dogs for them is such a good thing. 

For Karen Louise O’Neal, her 5-year-old English Box Head Black Lab named Patton means the world to her. O’Neal spent 20 years in the Navy working as an EMT from 1973 to 1993. The Navy veteran finally came to the end of her service and received her discharge papers. But when O’Neal left, she left with anxiety, depression, and post-traumatic stress disorder. 


As the veteran shared with WANE, “Being part of the ambulance crew, I saw a lot of gruesome injuries. Also, when I was in San Diego, there was a PSA plane that crashed in San Diego with a smaller plane I think there were 163 lives lost in that and it stuck with me for a long time.”

The Navy vet further explained to the media outlet that she was able to cope with all the traumatic memories while she was in the service. And even for several years since leaving she was able to cope, however, after retiring she found that she was struggling with the memories. Soon she began to experience anxiety on a regular basis. 

O’Neil stated, “I would fear that something would happen to our daughter when she went outside. I would hide in the doorway and keep an eye on her. I could only go as far as the mailbox and that was it. I became a hermit, I couldn’t go out to do grocery shopping, the pet store, whatever we needed to do, I withdrawn from that.”


Unable to cope on her own any longer, O’Neal reached out to a counselor. This counselor suggested that she should explore her options with a service dog. That is when she got in contact with Guardian Angels Medical Service Dogs, who ended up setting her up with Patton. The pairing ended up being exactly what the vet needed. As O’Neal stated, Patton helped to give her, her life back. She was able to work through her anxiety – something that was huge for her. As the vet revealed, she credits her dog with saving her life as she had previously considered suicide during her lowest point. Glad that she was able to find her joy again – and Patton was definitely a major key in that process. This is why service dogs are so important and vital to those who are suffering from mental health struggles. 

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