A Veteran’s Best Friend
This is the story of a veteran and his dog. It’s mostly about the dog, because for Dustin Rokicki, Trigger is a hero. Trigger is the service dog that makes his post-military life more bearable. Trigger eases the symptoms of his Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), which include social anxiety and severe night terrors.
Dustin met Trigger five years ago as the dog was being chased out of the neighbor’s yard with a broom. The neighbor was not happy to have a stray pit bull visiting her yard. “I called him over and he let me pick him up. I took him home, and he immediately fit into our household,” Dustin said.
Dustin posted signs and left his contact number with the animal shelter. He hoped no one would call, but they did, and Dustin’s heart hurt every time he faced the possibility of losing Trigger. Fortunately, no one correctly identified his markings, and Trigger became a permanent member of the Rokicki family.
Dustin’s wife, Amanda, a trained psychologist, immediately noticed that Trigger had a way of calming Dustin’s PTSD symptoms.
“When Dustin was having violent, flailing night terrors, Trigger would jump up on the bed, lay on his chest and calm him down.”
Dustin was also realizing that Trigger was helping him deal with his social anxiety attacks and alerting him of surrounding situations. After a year, it was obvious that with some formal training on how to behave in public, Trigger could be registered as a service dog.
Now, when Trigger is working, he wears his official Veteran Service Dog vest. Trigger is always present while Dustin is doing his contract handyman business, and Trigger is there when the Rokickis go to the movie theater or the coffee shop.
The Rokickis admit that having a service dog isn’t always easy. Strangers sometimes react to Trigger with skepticism. “We were on a date downtown and someone commented about my fake service dog. Really? You think I want to go on a hot date with my wife and have a dog following? We had to laugh. Sometimes a service animal is a pain. I always have four legs following behind me.”
In other cases, people are overly-friendly with the dog, petting without permission and causing distraction. Dustin prefers for people to ignore Trigger and allow him to carry on like everyone else. Having a special dog, however, is a treasure that the Rokickis choose to share with others when they can.
“We have a fantastic time at Christmas,” Dustin said. “Trigger gets dressed up like a reindeer, and we visit the elderly in retirement communities.”
“Trigger has a natural ability with terminally ill people,” Amanda said. “He seems to recognize the need for a warm body nearby or a head to pet. He’s really good at providing comfort and emotional support.”
Providing comfort and emotional support is exactly the role of this Veteran Service Dog in Dustin’s life, allowing him to function more fully in regular life.
“It’s always in the back of my mind that he’s there. As long as Trigger knows what’s going on around me, I have the confi dence to focus on my work,” Dustin said. “He’s a wise old soul, and he makes my day better.”
Providing comfort and emotional support is exactly the role of this Veteran Service Dog in Dustin’s life, allowing him to function more fully in regular life. “It’s always in the back of my mind that he’s there. As long as Trigger knows what’s going on around me, I have the confi dence to focus on my work,” Dustin said. “He’s a wise old soul, and he makes my day better.”