Retired Sgt. Jim Mason of Lafayette, CO served in both Gulf Wars and even went to Somalia to provide humanitarian aid; but the atrocities of war took is toll on the soldier. Mason has been diagnosed as having severe Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and needed help to cope with the real-life nightmares that he lived in the Gulf Wars and especially in Somalia, where his unit was ambushed. “I had to kill some people,” explains a tearful Mason. “They shot at us first. We were ambushed. But in my heart…I didn’t go there for that.”
When Mason retired after 20 years in the military, he began to notice changes in his behavior. He could not sleep, his temper was quick and he was afraid that he might become violent. Now he has Yankee, a fully qualified service dog who helps Mason feel safe.
Yankee, a yellow Labrador Retriever, can sense when Mason gets tense and helps him avoid panic attacks by staying close and serving as his “four-legged security blanket.” Yankee is also trained to keep an eye out behind Mason and will alert his owner to something or someone that Mason may consider a threat. “He watches my back,” says Mason.
The Lab was trained at a prison in New York and is part of a program called Puppies Behind Bars. What Yankee learned at the prison will be used to help free Mason from his lingering terror and give the former soldier a new “leash” on life. The canine is not only man’s best friend, but to Mason, he is indispensable.