NICEVILLE — Before Rocky came into his life in January, Tom Talbot, retired Air Force crew chief, struggled through his post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) nightmares alone.
But now Talbot has Rocky, a service dog and loyal companion, that senses and smells when his owner is battling with the effects from PTSD. Talbot said Rocky will even wake him up when he's having nightmares.
"That's where that bond is. He knows if something is wrong with me," Talbot said. "He's like, 'What's going on? What's a matter Dad?' "
Talbot was medically retired last year because of his PTSD. He said although he has a pet dog at home, the bond with Rocky is completely different.
"The first night he came home with me he jumped up on the bed, and that was it," Talbot said.
Rocky was one of four service dogs that was rid of the "in training" patch Friday at a Healing Paws for Warriors graduation ceremony at the Northwest Florida State College in Niceville.
Standing beside very own service dog Orion, retired Air Force Master Sgt. Mike Arena, co-founder and executive director of Healing Paws, said Orion has saved his life many times.
"When I start going down a rabbit hole, Orion is trained to pick up on the scent as that's going on or the sound," Arena said. "He knows when Dad is like this, I get loved on. ... It's a chance for me to take a breath."
Arena said not every veteran needs a service dog, but those that do can apply to Healing Paws. He said it's hard to put into words how much service dogs can help.
"I know how much it has helped our previous graduates, as most of them have said, 'I was looking down the barrel of a gun' or 'I was drinking myself to oblivion and then I stop and say if I do this, what happens to my battle buddy,'" Arena said. "This is a measure to keep them here because they still have so much to give."