Patriot PAWS employee shares story of how he got matched with his dog

Several employees and volunteers at Patriot PAWS are also veterans who have found some peace through working with service dogs. In some cases they even get matched with a dog of their own through the organization.

That was the case when Vietnam veteran Jay Springstead joined the staff at Patriot PAWS.

Jay couldn't shake the memories that would replay in his head after serving in a war he didn't even believe in.

“I had severe post-traumatic stress. I was a combat platoon leader in Vietnam during the Tet offensive of 1968. Lost a lot of men, was a rough year, spent a lot of time in the field,” said Springstead.

When he returned to the United States, he worked as a teacher and even started a group at the VA for veterans who were having trouble integrating back into society.

“I was lucky. I got through it,” Jay said. 

But Springstead knows there are so many other veterans who don't get through it. Nationwide about 22 of them commit suicide every day. Jay's son Tyler who served in Iraq is on that list.

“With my son, he turned to drugs, he turned to alcohol and eventually was addicted and when he got tired of his addiction, he took his own life,” said Springstead.

After losing Tyler, Jay wanted to do something more to help other struggling veterans.

“Certainly with combat veterans, that's what you have are the people around you and you learn to depend on them a great deal and we help each other,” Springstead said. 

He started working as a veteran coordinator at Patriot PAWS.

“In a way Patriot PAWS has saved my life, cause I don't know what would've happened after my son took his life,” said Springstead. 

He watched as service dogs changed the lives of veterans with physical and emotional scars.

“It has made a difference in their lives, some it certainly has saved their lives there's no doubt about that,
Springstead said. 

But while Jay was busy focusing on others, his coworkers decided it was time he get some help of his own.

“He’s watched all these veterans and he's helped all these veterans and we watched him and we realized, ‘You know, like these veterans that he's talked to every single day, Jay may need someone to go home to,’” said Patriot PAWS founder Lori Stevens. 

Jay has been coming home to Tex for the last six months.

“He slept under Jay’s desk every single day,” Stevens said.

The black Labrador retriever could not be matched with another veteran because of health concerns.

“He's a character. He's survived heartworm, he's survived the streets, now he’s spoiled rotten,” said Jay. 

But even though he couldn't meet the high standards set to be a service dog, Tex was the perfect match for Springstead. Because with Tex in his life, Jay is able to focus on all the lives he can still save. 

“I can't imagine not having him around,” Jay said. 
               
To volunteer, donate, apply for a dog or learn more about the organization visit www.patriotpaws.org.

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