Service dog much more than companion to veteran

EL DORADO, Kan. (KAKE) -

Alan Fitzgerald rarely goes anywhere without his dog Joker.

In fact, Joker probably saved his life, more than once.

"I was in and out of the hospital, contemplating suicide,” said Fitzgerald. "I could've possibly been one of the 22 of the statistics that, ya know, veterans take their life each day."

 After serving in the army, Fitzgerald suffered from PTSD and anxiety.

He says it was hard to leave the house and do day to day things until he found Midwest Battle Buddies, an organization that helps train dogs for veterans with disabilities.

Chip Neumann runs battle buddies.

"There's nothing that's ever been this important to me in my life,” said Neumann. “The satisfaction I get out of this is overwhelming. You can't imagine what it feels like to have a veteran come up to you and say, ‘If it wasn't for what the organization is doing, I don't think I would be here right now.’ There's nothing that matches that feeling."

The picture of George H.W. Bush's service dog faithfully lying by his casket is a staunch example of how loyal the dogs are to their owners.

"It felt really good to me; I see that a lot. I’ve got veterans in the hospital right now that their dogs' laying in the hospital bed with them and they won’t leave their side,” Neumann said after seeing the picture.

Fitzgerald owes his life to his service dog and says without him, he doesn't know where he would be.

"He is a life saver, my best bud, my friend,” said Fitzgerald.

If you're a veteran in need of a service dog or would like to donate to Midwest Battle Buddies, visit the following link: Midwest Battle Buddies.

Photographer/Editor: KAKE's Justin Young 

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