A Lifesaving Bond: The Importance of Service Dogs to Veterans 

For veterans returning from duty, the challenges they face often extend beyond their time in service. The transition to civilian life can be particularly difficult for those struggling with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and other combat-related conditions. Thankfully, service dogs have emerged as invaluable companions, offering not only practical assistance but also an unbreakable bond. In this blog, we explore the significance of service dogs to veterans, emphasizing the profound relationship and multitude of tasks these incredible animals perform.

The Unbreakable Bond: 

The bond formed between a service dog and a veteran is a powerful and transformative experience. Veterans who have struggled with the physical and psychological scars of war find solace and companionship in these loyal animals. Service dogs become more than mere assistants; they become trusted partners who provide unwavering support, unconditional love, and a sense of security. This deep connection often helps veterans regain their confidence, rebuild trust, and improve their overall well-being.

Life-Changing Tasks: 

Service dogs are meticulously trained to perform an array of tasks that greatly enhance the daily lives of veterans. These tasks are specifically tailored to address the unique challenges faced by individuals with PTSD and other disabilities. Some common tasks include:

  1. Nightmare Interruption: Many veterans experience traumatic nightmares that disrupt their sleep patterns and exacerbate their PTSD symptoms. Service dogs are trained to recognize signs of distress and wake their handlers from these distressing dreams, providing comfort and reassurance.
  2. Anxiety and Panic Attack Response: Dogs have an innate ability to sense changes in human behavior and emotions. When a veteran experiences an anxiety or panic attack, the service dog can intervene by applying pressure, providing deep pressure therapy, and offering a calming presence to help alleviate symptoms.
  3. Medication Retrieval: Service dogs are trained to retrieve medication or other necessary items, allowing veterans to maintain their independence and adhere to prescribed treatments.
  4. Physical Assistance: Some veterans may have mobility challenges due to injuries sustained during their service. Service dogs are trained to assist with tasks such as retrieving dropped items, opening doors, and providing stability and balance support.

The Mutual Benefits of Training: 

The training process for service dogs is not solely beneficial for the animals; it also provides immense advantages to the veterans involved. Training a service dog requires dedication, patience, and consistency, fostering a sense of purpose and responsibility in veterans. Through this training, veterans learn to effectively communicate with their canine partners, further strengthening the bond between them. This shared experience of training instills a sense of accountability and structure reminiscent of military service, promoting self-discipline and emotional well-being.

PTSD and the Healing Power of Dogs: 

PTSD is a common condition among veterans, characterized by debilitating symptoms such as hypervigilance, flashbacks, and emotional distress. The presence of a service dog has shown to significantly reduce these symptoms, providing a calming influence and a source of emotional support. The companionship and unconditional love offered by a service dog can help veterans feel understood and accepted, diminishing feelings of isolation and depression.

Service dogs play a vital role in the lives of veterans, offering not only practical assistance but also an unwavering bond. Through their specialized training, these incredible animals help veterans manage the challenges associated with PTSD and other combat-related conditions. The relationship between a service dog and a veteran is transformative, providing emotional support, enhancing independence, and improving overall well-being. As we recognize the immeasurable contributions of service dogs to veterans, it becomes clear that these loyal companions are not just pets; they are lifelines that restore hope and provide a path towards healing. These are just some of the great things that my service dog Ammo has done for me. I can honestly say that Ammo saved my life.


Learn More:

Read more about John's story, and 8 other first responders in the book "Lessons in Cadence" by visiting: https://www.lessonsincadence.com

Suicide and Post Traumatic Stress among Law Enforcement: The Hidden Dangers

Law enforcement officers have a challenging job, witnessing and experiencing traumatic incidents that most people cannot even imagine. Although the fear of being killed on the job is a reality, it is just one aspect of the job. Officers are also faced with fatal car accidents, suicides, witnessing poverty and despair, sexual assaults, armed robberies, and more. On top of that, they endure endless night shifts, a poor diet, and irregular sleep patterns that can result in physical and mental health issues. Inter-office politics, a lack of mentorship, and questionable leadership can also make the job more challenging.

Looking at statistics for post traumatic stress, depression, anxiety, divorce, and suicide among law enforcement reveals the cost. 

According to the Blue H.E.L.P. organization, which tracks law enforcement suicides, there were 295 reported suicides in 2021. This is a 28% increase from the previous year. Additionally, law enforcement officers are more likely to die by suicide than in the line of duty. The suicide rate for law enforcement officers is 18.1 per 100,000, compared to 14.5 per 100,000 for the general population (National Institute of Mental Health).

Traumatic incidents are a regular part of the job for law enforcement officers. They witness and experience things that most people can't even imagine, from violent crimes to fatal accidents. According to a study published in the Journal of Police and Criminal Psychology, the average police officer experiences a significantly higher than the number of traumatic incidents experienced by the average civilian.

Despite the rising rates of post-traumatic stress, depression, anxiety, divorce, and suicide among law enforcement officers, seeking help remains a significant challenge due to fear of losing their badge or job, being ostracized by peers, and the stigma surrounding mental health. 

So, what can be done to address the issue of PTS, depression, anxiety, divorce, and suicide among law enforcement officers? 

One important step is to increase awareness and education around these issues. Law enforcement agencies can provide training and resources to officers to help them recognize the signs of mental health struggles and provide them with the tools they need to seek help.

Another important step is to reduce the stigma surrounding mental health in the law enforcement community. This can be done through initiatives that promote mental health and well-being, such as peer support programs and employee assistance programs. Law enforcement agencies can also work to create a culture of openness and acceptance around mental health struggles, where officers feel comfortable seeking help without fear of negative consequences.

Yet all of these strategies require support from someone else.  Help and support that may never come.  

So what can we do while we wait? 


According to a study published in the Lancet in 2018, researchers have found that exercise can have a significant impact on reducing symptoms of depression and anxiety, as well as improving overall mental health. The article cites a study in which participants who engaged in regular exercise reported a 43% reduction in poor mental health days.  

In a more recent study,  researchers found exercise to be more effective than medication in treating depression and anxiety! Published just this year, data from over 500,000 individuals found that those who engaged in regular physical activity reported fewer mental health issues than those who did not. Study authors found that intervals of exercise 12 weeks or less were most effective for improving symptoms related to mental illness, suggesting that even small changes for a short period of time could have beneficial effects.

While higher-intensity exercises had “greater improvements for depression and anxiety,” all kinds of physical activity could “significantly reduce symptoms.”

So yeah, the job is tough; and of course, it would be wonderful if our departments had our back, training to manage PTSD was created, and programs to reduce the stigma while increasing peer support would be FANTASTIC.

But while we wait…   Let’s grab our gear and Go to the Gym. 



You're not alone...

In the book "Lessons in Cadence", I interview 5 military veterans and 4 police officers in an attempt to discover the common battles with post traumatic stress, from the events they experienced, through their deep personal struggles and into their internal recalibration efforts as they make strides towards healing. It provides the reader with an honest and unfiltered look at the internal monologue of men and women who are fighting the battles to recover and re-establish their identities. Discover their truth strength by witnessing their vulnerability with you, the reader. You are not alone...

Go To the F*cking Gym!

For police officers and military veterans who have experienced trauma, the mental health benefits of team sports and physical fitness cannot be overstated. 

PTSD is a serious condition that can make it difficult to enjoy life, maintain relationships, and hold down a job; but, through regular exercise and participating in team sports, those who suffer from PTSD can improve their mood, reduce anxiety, and reclaim their lives. I have witnessed this first hand and cannot overstate the importance of getting physically active for positive mental health. 

Police officers (and first responders in general) are often exposed to traumatic events on a regular basis, whether it's responding to domestic violence calls, investigating homicides, or dealing with the aftermath of accidents. The first time I did CPR on someone, I was a volunteer EMT and did not even have my driver’s license yet. I’ll never forget the family crying in the same room while my father and I attempted to resuscitate a man who was a grandfather to the kids in the other room and a father to the adults in the room with us.  This scene would play out over and over and over again as I pursued a lifetime of public service. 

My Father, Teenage Me, Mark & Eve. Before heading towards NYC about 12:30 pm on 9/11.

The constant exposure to these situations can lead to PTSD, which can be incredibly difficult to manage, especially when you pretend it doesn’t exist (which we cops are the BEST at doing). Similarly, military veterans who have experienced combat have a higher risk of developing PTSD. Witnessing death and destruction, and feeling constantly on edge in a combat environment can take a toll on mental health.

So what can we do?  How can we get started on a path to recovery; especially when we are, perhaps, not yet ready to talk to someone and open up about some of the struggles we are truly experiencing?  

My answer?  #GoToTheGym

Physical exercise has been shown to have a positive impact on mental health, including reducing symptoms of depression and anxiety. And we don’t need a scientific study to tell us what we know is obvious.  We have all experienced the endorphin rush and the positive “high” we feel after a great workout or a great sports game.  For police officers and veterans who are dealing with PTSD, engaging in regular physical activity can be a critical part of their treatment plan.

Team sports are especially valuable for those who suffer from PTSD. Joining a team can provide a sense of belonging and camaraderie, which can be critical for those who feel isolated or disconnected. Participating in a sport also provides a sense of purpose and accomplishment, which can help rebuild self-esteem and confidence. This is particularly why I like CrossFit - which feels akin to a team sport.  

It's important to note that while exercise and team sports can be valuable tools in managing PTSD, they are not a substitute for professional treatment. If you are struggling with PTSD, it's important to seek help from a mental health professional who can provide a comprehensive treatment plan. 

And if you are not ready for that, call a friend.

And if you are not ready for that….go to the fucking gym!  

You’ll feel better and maybe tomorrow, you can call a friend.  And if they won’t answer, you can always call me. 



For more on PTSD, visit our Free Resources Page Here.  

You can also check out our book, “Lessons in Cadence”.  You can find it on Amazon or by going to https://www.lessonsincadence.com 

PTSD and Car Accidents

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is an anxiety disorder stemming from a traumatic incident, such as a car accident, which causes symptoms that impact daily life.

Physical injuries are often the focus of recovery efforts in the aftermath of car accidents, while the mental impact is largely ignored. PTSD is commonly associated with military combat veterans. Most people aren’t aware that the emotional trauma from car accidents can lead to post-traumatic stress disorder. In fact, car accidents are the leading cause of PTSD in the general population.

This debilitating mental injury often goes untreated because many car accident victims are unaware that they have post-traumatic stress disorder. One study showed that nearly half of all car accident victims experience PTSD. In the United States, 4.4 million people sustain injuries in car accidents serious enough to warrant hospitalization. This means as many as two million Americans experience PTSD from car accidents.

More effort should be made to treat the psychological impacts of car accidents.

CLICK THIS LINK to read a full blog from NSTLAW and find out how you can get resources and representation to help you in the event of a PTSD related car accident.