I started going to School on Wheels at the beginning of 2019 where I met my teacher and his service dog, Hope. My teacher told us he has Hope because he struggled with PTSD.
At School on Wheels, they do service learning, and our teacher's service learning was volunteering at Paws and Stripes. This service interested me, so I chose to volunteer at Paws and Stripes. It was the best decision I've ever made.
I like volunteering at Paws and Stripes because I love what Paws and Stripes does - they're helping veterans who struggle with PTSD, TBI, and MST. They are also saving shelter dogs and giving them a new purpose. "Saving lives, two at a time." Veterans can go to Paws and Stripes to unwind from a hard day and feel safe. They are also around people who understand what they are going through and have people there to help and support them.
Since I started volunteering at Paws and Stripes, it has helped me to come out of my shell and learn how to communicate and work with others. I got better at asking questions and asking for help, which is one of the things I struggle with the most. I learned how to write letters and how to write on an envelope. I learned that the Veteran doesn't choose the dog, the dog chooses the veteran. I got to witness a selection and it's the most heart-warming thing I've ever seen. It almost brings you to tears when the dog and veteran connect.
I myself struggle with mental illness and it's the most painful thing anyone can go through. It hurts so much to know that so many Veterans go through this pain and end up taking their own lives.
My teacher sadly passed away in May. I miss him so much. It still feels so unreal to me. I know he would want me to continue to volunteer at Paws and Stripes and to pursue my dream of becoming a vet technician. I want to make him proud. Thank you for being an amazing teacher. Thank you for helping me and for supporting me. Thank you for being patient with me and for caring about me. Thank you for all the wonderful memories. Thank you for everything.
Natalie, Paws and Stripes Volunteer