Shelter dog helps veteran manage PTSD and sobriety

Robin and Tucker

It took the healing powers of a shelter dog to help one Air Force veteran come to grips with her Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and aid her continuing sobriety.

Robin is a Vietnam War Air Force veteran struggling with PTSD, an alcoholic with almost two years of sobriety and has put an abusive marriage behind her. For a time, she was so self-destructive that she became homeless. Ultimately, she was referred to HudVash, a nationwide Veterans Administration (VA) service that helps homeless veterans get back on their feet and into their own homes.

Paying it forward

Now independent and sober, Robin hopes to apply her life experiences to help other female veterans just like her. For the next two years, she’ll be in school working towards her associates degree in social work, thanks to a Pell Grant and the Veterans Retraining Assistance Program. She hopes to do a practicum at the local Boston Veterans Office or VA and would be thrilled work at either facility once her studies are complete.

Robin believes that if you can’t work it out, you can’t heal. She knows her empathy for other struggling female veterans will help others relate to her, and that perhaps she can help them overcome their own personal demons and find a better life.

Excited about her plans, Robin says, “I have a big door that is open and waiting.”

A billboard and a dream

Robin was 18 years old when she enlisted in the Air Force. She wanted to go to college to study foreign language, but her parents couldn’t afford it and her father subsequently was diagnosed with terminal lung cancer. She confesses that she was so immature at the time that she couldn’t handle the situation or listen to her parents cry. It was too much.

One day, an Air Force recruiting billboard got her attention.

She met with a recruiter and shared her hope of becoming a translator for the Air Force. While that particular job did not happen for her, Robin did become an Air Passenger Specialist responsible for boarding military personnel, and sometimes their families, on flights traveling to and from McGuire Air Force Base in New Jersey, as well as to Travis Air Force Base in California. Many of the enlisted men would continue to Vietnam from Travis. Robin and Tucker

Just a teenager, Robin didn’t know much about life, and her new job in the Air Force was an emotional awakening for her – one she remembers as an extraordinary experience.

“It was the beginning of a journey for some,” she reflects, “and the end for others when they were able to return home.”

Shelter dog to the rescue

With her military service many years behind her and her PTSD and sobriety both under control, Robin was ready for a new responsibility: pet ownership. Growing up, she always had a dog in her life and felt was ready for another one. A social worker at the Boston VA told her about Pets for Patriots; she was excited to learn that there was a program right in her backyard.

Soon after Robin was accepted into Pets for Patriots and told the organization’s local adoption partner what she was looking for, the Quincy Animal Shelter called to tell her they found what they believed to be the right dog for her needs.

The moment Robin saw Tucker, at the time a four-and-a-half year-old Pomeranian, she knew he was the one.

“This is my dog,” Robin thought to herself, and sent him a mental message: “Don’t you dare get adopted by anyone else. You’re coming home with me.”

The adoption staff at the Quincy Animal Shelter agreed, seeing that Robin and Tucker were a great match.

“They didn’t even know me,” she says, “but somehow, they knew I was right for Tucker. They were wonderful.”

Robin has high praise as well for The Quarry Hills Animal Hospital, Pets for Patriots’ veterinary partner that provides an ongoing 15% discount for the charity’s members who adopt an eligible pet through the program.

“He makes my life complete”

Robin’s experience has been so positive that she talks about the nationwide charity every opportunity she gets.

“Veterans are a community and, as a member of that community, it’s important that I share opportunities and resources like Pets for Patriots, which is a wonderful program,” she says.

But Robin reserves her highest praise for her former shelter dog, Tucker.

“Tucker follows me everywhere,” she says. “He is my best friend and confidant. He listens to me singing and accepts it. He expects nothing and gives me everything. We are always there for each other; we give each other what we need. It’s a wonderful feeling. No one in my life ever did this for me. He was given to me, and now I can give back to others the same love and loyalty he provides to me every day.”

Robin sums up neatly what Tucker has done for her: “He makes my life complete.”

How does your pet help you cope with difficulties in life?


  1. wotoadgi


    President Obama announced Tuesday that the United States will keep 9,800 troops in Afghanistan through 2015, rather than reducing the number to 5,500, as originally planned.

    Obama based his decision on Afghan President Ashraf Ghani鈥檚 鈥渞equest for flexibility in the U.S. draw down timeline,鈥?the White House said in a statement. Ghani has previously stated his desire for the U.S. troops to remain in Afghanistan over the upcoming few years during a transition to a complete withdrawal from the nation.

    The exact trajectory of the troop withdrawal in 2016 will be established later this year.

    鈥淭he timeline for a withdrawal down to an embassy center presence 鈥?a normalization of our presence in Afghanistan 鈥?remains the end of 2016,鈥?Obama said on Tuesday during a joint press conference with Ghani. 鈥淪o that hasn鈥檛 changed. Our transition out of a combat role has not changed.鈥?

    There are currently 9,800 U.S. troops in Afghanistan providing training and support. Another 3,000 troops from other NATO countries also remain in the country.

    鈥淭he institutional gains that would be achieved through the (training), advise and (assisting) role is what will guarantee that the investments of the last 14 years pay off,鈥?Ghani said.

    Tuesday was Ghani鈥檚 first trip to the White House, marking a change in the U.S.-Afghanistan relationship.

    鈥淭his is a different relationship than we had under [Afghan – President Karzai,鈥?Jeff Eggers, special assistant to the president for Afghanistan and Pakistan on Friday. 鈥淚t鈥檚 clearly more cooperative and better.鈥?

  2. Roger BIESEL

    We’re most inspired by your story. We are a new non-profit dedicated to helping folks with loneliness or problems similar to yours. See our website! If you’d like to network, we’d be honored to join you.

    • Dorothy Pickrell

      This really warms my heart. Robin, Thank You for sharing your story. It’s very brave and powerful of you. You are already helping women veterans through your success and future plans. You are an inspiration and just shows that it CAN be done, very hard, but possible. The first step is the hardest………reaching out for help. The VA in MA has wonderful programs and lots of great people. Please, Please ladies, if you need help, go to the VA. You will be received warmly and with the greatest understanding. Big Big Hugs!! Dorothy

      • Dorothy Pickrell

        P.S. Robin. If you ever want to get together for a cup of coffee, I can be contacted through the Quincy Animal Shelter.

  3. Dorothy Pickrell

    Reading this article brought tears to my eyes. I am a Military Retiree and a volunteer at the Quincy Animal Shelter on the Canine Team. It makes me so proud that Robin and Tucker found each other through Pets for Patriots and Quincy Animal Shelter. Big Hugs Robin and Tucker! Dorothy

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