CLEARWATER, FLORIDA—An Army veteran from Clearwater is convinced that this ‘dating app' saved her life.
But make no mistake; this intriguing ‘dating app' is for service dogs!
Army veteran Becca Stephens was on the verge of suicide when she stumbled upon K9s for Warriors, an American charity and organization aimed at providing service dogs to veterans for free.
Stephens retired from the Army in 2011 after years of service in Iraq. It was not long after when symptoms of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder kicked in.
“Being in Iraq was a mind-blowing experience. Sirens going off, helicopters, it’s just something that really sticks with you and changes the way you look at life,” said Stephens. “[I felt] Mood swings and these emotions and feelings. I took painkillers, and within a year, I was a full-blown addict.”
With the same process of swiping left and right, much like in dating apps, K9s for Warriors assessed Stephens' diagnosis, personality, and lifestyle, before she was matched with the perfect canine companion in 2018 after years of self-medicating.
This is when she met Bobbi, a Labrador Retriever who's keeping her company for 5 years now.
“I’d like to call it the Tinder of finding a dog,” Stephens jokingly said.
Stephens still remember the very first ‘date' she and Bobbi had, and called it ‘an emotional ceremonial experience.'
“It was like the scene in ‘Avatar’ when they attach themselves to the animal. That’s exactly how I felt when I took the leash from the trainer,” said Stephens.
She also recalled that Bobbi was chosen for her because of the dog's calm and submissive demeanor, in contrast to her anxiety and stress at the time.
“All I have to do is look at her, and I know if she’s okay, then I’m okay,” Stephens said.
Stephens has become an advocate and ambassador of K9s for Warriors since then, saying that the program literally saved and turned her life around completely.
“Veterans are the heart and soul of this country, and some of us feel like we are drowning. It’s hard because we’ve been trained to look out for everyone but ourselves. K9s For Warriors reminds us that we really can get better.”
If you or someone you know needs help in getting service dogs, check out K9s for Warriors' website.