For Iraq war veteran, Sgt. (retired) Jeff Mitchell, his dog Tazie isn't just his best friend, she is his savior.
Before being paired with Tazie, Mitchell said he was drinking whiskey every day, had nightmares, violent outbursts and locked himself in isolation.
"Being in Iraq altered the way I see the world, and a lot of the trauma for me came from either witnessing things, and almost questioning my own morality," Mitchell said.
After serving two tours in Iraq that took Mitchell to some of the most dangerous areas, Falluja, Ramadi, and Tal Afar to name a few, Mitchell said something in him changed.
"There is a switch that got flipped on, that is stuck in the on position," Mitchell said.
After undergoing therapy that included 14 different anti-psychotics and depression medicines, along with outreach groups and counseling, Mitchell said nothing could pull him out of his fear, except for Tazie.
"Driving down the road and seeing an abandoned car on the side of the road, I think for a lot of people that is nothing. I look at it as a threat," Mitchell said. "But with Tazie, she gets me back into the present. It is very grounding, it brings me back into the now. So, instead of letting the movie play out in my head it (Tazie) stops it or slows down."
Mitchell said Tazie is there for moral support, when he is having a bad day she will sense his emotions, put her paw on his leg, or head on his lap to comfort Mitchell.
"She is every bit as important to his recovery as any of the other treatments he goes to," Carol Mitchell, Jeff's mom said.
Carol said the Department of Veterans Affairs' decision to end the program to pair psyche dogs with veterans is a big mistake.
"The VA is very shortsighted in deciding to abandon the research and funding for psychiatric service dogs," Carol said. "We need to continue to do something about the staggering suicides. It is unconscionable and wrong to tolerate not taking care of people who have sacrificed so much so we can live our lives, their decision is tragic and it is stupid."
U.S. Sen. Charles E. Schumer from New York even called on the VA "to immediately revise a directive that will prevent veterans with PTSD and other mental and emotional disorders from receiving VA benefits for service dogs," a statement on Schumer's web site stated.
Mitchell said he has no doubt he would not be where he is today without Tazie.
"I would either be dead or in jail," Mitchell said. "I disagree with the VA for what they are doing. Tazie is no different to me than a person who needs a seeing-eye dog, or someone who is in a wheelchair; she is my wheelchair, my eyes. And to deny somebody that form of treatment, I just think they are dead wrong."
Since Tazie was given to Mitchell free of charge from Paws4Vets, Mitchell said it gets him back into the public, a place he was terrified and is still terrified to go.
"I don't like going to the grocery store, I see threats everywhere and there is just too much to monitor," Mitchell said. "But, if I have to, I can. I can't imagine going anywhere without her, I have had her since February of last year and every time I walk out that door she is with me."
Carol said there were years that her son didn't smile after returning home.
"He went for years without showing any emotion at all except anger and frustration and with Tazie he laughs every day," Carol said. "Tazie is the difference in having your son, and not having your son and she has healed the whole family."
The VA said it ended the program until it could complete its own study in 2014.
Copyright 2012 WGCL-TV (Meredith Corporation). All rights reserved.
Friday, May 17 2013 6:05 PM EDT2013-05-17 22:05:44 GMT
A metro Atlanta woman said a snake bite cost her an arm and a leg financially. Lisa Zambito killed a copperhead snake like this one in her driveway a couple of weeks ago. "The head moved as I pickedMore >
A metro Atlanta woman said a snakebite cost her an arm and a leg - financially. More >
Friday, May 17 2013 11:23 PM EDT2013-05-18 03:23:46 GMT
With no state lottery in Alabama, and a buzz about the largest Powerball Jackpot in history, people are gassing up their cars, getting out cash and heading to Georgia. CBS Atlanta News caught up withMore >
With no state lottery in Alabama, and a buzz about the largest Powerball Jackpot in history, people are gassing up their cars, getting out cash and heading to Georgia.More >
Friday, May 17 2013 11:52 AM EDT2013-05-17 15:52:49 GMT
President Barack Obama will deliver the Commencement address during the 129th Commencement exercises at Morehouse College. Commencement is set for 11 a.m. Sunday, May 19, 2013 on the Century Campus. TheMore >
President Barack Obama will deliver the commencement address during the 129th commencement exercises at Morehouse College on Sunday.More >
Friday, May 17 2013 11:35 PM EDT2013-05-18 03:35:12 GMT
A Levi's Call has been issued for a missing Sandy Springs 2-year-old girl. Police said Sorelle Torrez was abducted from Roswell Road around 8 a.m. Friday morning by her father, Zebidiah Lockette.More >
A missing 2-year-old girl from Sandy Springs has been found safe in Arkansas. More >
Despite Democratic fears, predictions of the demise of President Barack Obama's agenda appear exaggerated after a week of cascading controversies, political triage by the administration and party leaders in...More >
Despite Democratic fears, predictions of the demise of President Barack Obama's agenda appear exaggerated after a week of cascading controversies, political triage by the administration and party leaders in Congress and...More >