Bruce Roscoe, U.S. Army Combat Photographer: Saved By a Soldier’s Best Friend
Vision of Vets Founder and photographer Bruce Roscoe shares his recent experience about how his Australian Labradoodle service dog Ziggy saved his life, and the incredible value that trained service dogs can provide to combat veterans.
By Bruce Roscoe, Vietnam Veteran and Army Combat Photographer
Dogs are special. At times, they can know something is wrong with you even before the doctors know.
Ziggy is my Australian Labradoodle service dog and he watches over me like a hawk. The two of us were trained as a team for PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder) through Soldier’s Best Friend, an Arizona non-profit organization based in Peoria with two trainers in Prescott. They work with combat veterans with PTSD or TBI (traumatic brain injuries). One of Ziggy’s tasks and many cues is to apply tactile stimulation, a maneuver where a dog applies deep pressure to a particular part of the body when the dog senses something isn’t right –thus making the person aware of a potential problem.
I actually knew something wasn’t right before I even went to the VA for a colonoscopy. It wasn’t that I felt bad, but it was something Ziggy called to my attention. He had been doing tactile stimulation on me for several weeks before my scheduled test and made it obvious that he knew there was a problem. After the colonoscopy, my doctor said something didn’t look right. A biopsy was sent to pathology to confirm the observation. In the meantime, the doctor wanted me to have some blood work done. I already knew I had cancer just because of the way Ziggy was acting. It was no surprise.
After surgery and eight days in the hospital, it was time to come home. Ziggy was so excited. He wouldn’t leave me alone. He wanted to sleep on the floor next to our bed instead of his usually place to sleep in my office.
Within a few days, Ziggy resumed the tactile stimulation. “Oh no what now?” I asked myself. When I was in the hospital, there was a concern for some type of cardiac irregularity. The VA referred me to Cardiac Care in Prescott Valley where I underwent a number of test and went home with a heart monitor. Within days I was called to return to the Cardiac Clinic where I was told I needed a pacemaker—stat.
Ziggy didn’t go to Phoenix for either operations. My wife Elaine was there by my side from early morning to late at night while I was in the hospital. I’m blessed to have such a wonderful wife. To me it was a bit humbling to be taking care of but she was and is amazing!
Now that I’m armed with a pacemaker and free of colon cancer, I’m ready to help others.
If you know of a combat veteran in our area that suffers from panic attacks, depression, flashbacks, irritability, reclusive behavior, anxiety, nightmares, uneasiness in a crowded place, or suicidal thoughts, I may be able to assist you with paperwork for Soldiers Best Friend. There won’t be any cost to you. If you don’t already have a dog under three years old, Soldiers Best Friend can find one for you. In any case, a trained service dog can be YOUR best friend. Portrait courtesy of Lasting Image.
If you don’t live in Arizona you might locate a non-profit in your state that could help you. It’s worth looking into.