Service Dog For Navy Vet With PTSD Needs Help
By Space Coast Daily // March 8, 2015
service dog needs ACL surgery
ABOVE VIDEO: In this report you’ll meet Bryan Wimberly and his service dog Bella, a very special duo who need your help. Bryan is a Navy veteran suffering with PTSD. Bella is his three year old service dog who needs ACL surgery.
TALLAHASSEE, FLORIDA – Post-traumatic stress disorder is on the rise for thousands of our military veterans. Hospitals, colleges and other organizations do their best to help these men and women, but about one in three sufferers of PTSD will continue to have some symptoms throughout their lives.
However, there is one breed of caregivers who provide companionship and support for those afflicted with this life-changing illness.
Meet TCC honors alum and Navy veteran Bryan Wimberly and his service dog, Bella.
Wimberly served in the military for more than 20 years.
After returning from Iraq in 2007, he was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder and dissociative fugue with amnesia.
“Combat is hell,” said Wimberly. “When you’re living in an environment where you’re constantly, every second of your day, knowing that it could be your last, it really puts a lot of stress on your mind.”
For Wimberly, the stress began to manifest into anger, confusion and memory loss. He once woke up in his car in Georgia and had no recollection of ever driving there.
“It’s scary,” he said. “Sometimes my mind just shuts off and I have no control.”
The stress continued to affect Wimberly’s personal and academic life as a student at Tallahassee Community College. Through the assistance of a TCC adviser, he sought help for his PTSD.
This led him to a young golden retriever named Bella. She was donated in 2012 with the sole purpose of becoming a service dog for a veteran in need. Instantly, Bryan knew Bella was special in many ways.
“Most service animals serve one person and they’re trained for a number of tasks. They’re not trained to be affiliative or empathetic,” said Stephanie Perkins, Tallahassee Memorial Hospital Animal Therapy Program Manager.
“Bella is special in that she has those traits too; she helps Bryan reach out to other people so that he can get outside of himself and create friendships and companionship with other people.”
“I could be in the classroom,” Wimberly said, “and just the fact of her laying there in the classroom with us here on school campus for a test, people were at ease.”
In addition to her work in TMH’s Animal Therapy Program, Bella also spends time in TCC’s Disability Support Services and has worked with Big Bend Homeless Coalition. “Not only has she touched me, she’s touched hundreds of people’s lives,” said Wimberly.
Wimberly credits many people, including his advisers and professors at TCC, for providing the environment in which he was able to graduate with honors from the College. But he credits Bella for getting him through each day, matching him step for step.
Now Wimberly is working on his psychology degree at St. Leo University on TCC’s campus. He plans to get his master’s degree and become a licensed case worker for homeless veterans. While his future is looking bright, he currently faces a large obstacle on his journey. Bella has torn both ACL’s in her rear legs and will require major surgery.
“Bella has pulled me from the darkest, darkest corners of PTSD,” said Wimberly. “I’ve got to help Bella get that surgery so she can feel better. I owe that to her.”