After U.S. Navy Veteran Rebekah came back from the war in 2011, she was not the same person. Rebekah was unable to go out in public on her own and all she wanted to do is retire and go home to her parents. For Rebekah to engage in public at all, her oldest daughter Taylor had to act as her “service kid” and accompany Rebekah everywhere, break Rebekah from her panic attacks, and help bring her mom back to reality. Ultimately, the incredible sacrifices that Taylor was having to make to help her mom function were the biggest factor in the veteran deciding that things needed to change.
Rebekah had heard about the Washington-based training organization Midwest Battle Buddies from another veteran at her command who had previously received a service dog through them. So after talking to her mental health doctor, Rebekah decided to give the organization a try. A few months later, Rebekah was introduced to her life-changing service dog, a rescued Boxer mix named Trigger.
Family and friends of Rebekah have commented on how amazing it is to watch the change in Trigger when he puts on his service dog vest. “As soon as his vest is on, it’s like a soldier in uniform,” says Rebekah’s sister. “Trigger has a job to do, and his sole focus is Rebekah.”
One of Trigger’s vest-on talents is sensing when Rebekah is beginning to experience a panic attack or is having difficulties "getting back to reality." In these moments, Trigger is able to bring Rebekah out of these unhealthy mental states by licking Rebekah’s face or by pawing at her until Rebekah tells him "I am ok buddy" or begins to laugh.
When out in public, Trigger always remains right by Rebekah’s side. Typically, the Boxer mix will stand between Rebekah’s legs and look behind the veteran to guard her backside while Rebekah is in line or in a large crowd. This provides Rebekah with reassurance that she doesn’t have to be as hypervigilant because Trigger is able to be her extra set of eyes and ears. If Rebekah begins to lose focus in a crowded place and starts to become panicked, the veteran will reach down and touch Trigger and focus on him as she navigates through a crowd. Over time, Trigger’s ability to watch Rebekah’s “six” is what has given the veteran the confidence to go out into the world and become a functioning member of society again.
In addition to Trigger enabling Rebekah to “stop surviving and start living” as the veteran says, Trigger has also inspired Rebekah to start a business that gives back. Her business — appropriately called Triggered 22, LLC — works to help support other veterans struggling with PTSD and raises awareness to the fact that 22 veterans commit suicide every day.
Additionally, Rebekah has become a member of the Board of Directors for Northwest Battle Buddies. She is actually the first veteran with a service dog to serve on the board. And now, thanks to Trigger’s skill set, Rebekah is able to speak to large crowds about her experience and what Trigger has done to change her life.
But Rebekah’s life isn’t the only one Trigger has impacted. Because her mom now has the support she needs from Trigger, Rebekah’s daughter Taylor has been able to leave home to pursue her dreams and attend college.
“Trigger, I’m telling you, he gave me my life back. He gave my daughter her life back,” says Rebekah. “My experience with Trigger has encouraged me to stop surviving and start living. And to get out there and encourage people to say, 'It’s okay not to be okay.'