Battle Buddies help vets get through fireworks

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BATTLE GROUND, Wash. (KOIN) — There’s Rondo and Gracie and Sergeant Rome. They’re all battle buddies, service dogs for veterans with PTSD. They’re making a difference in the lives of American veterans every day of the year.

Sergeant Rome’s person is George Lonnee, a Vietnam veteran. Gracie takes care of Michael Sahling, injured while fighting in Iraq. Both men struggled intensely with percussion and loud bangs of unexpected fireworks until Sergeant Rome and Gracie entered their lives.

“Loud noises, anything sudden. I have a real time keeping a lid on it,” Sahling told KOIN 6 News.

“I think he’s human. … He holds me.” — George Lonnee, Vietnam vet

“If I’m sleeping at night and they start shooting these bombs, whatever they call them, I come out of the bed and (Sergeant Rome) is on top of me,” Lonnee said.

Shannon Walker, the founder of Northwest Battle Buddies, has now provided 45 service dogs to veterans like Lonnee and Sahling. The dogs are trained for 7 months to a years and provided to vets at no charge.

“These dogs are trained not only to be with them day and night, 24/7, but these dogs will also help interrupt a panic attack throughout the day,” Walker said.

And fireworks do just that.

“I had one of my night terrors and immediately (Gracie) woke me up,” Sahling said.

Lonnee put it slightly differently.

“I think he’s human. He puts his paws on my shoulders, puts his face right next to mine. He holds me.”

That’s why these pups are priceless to Michael Sahling, George Lonnee and dozens of other veterans who have their own Battle Buddy.

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