BROOKSVILLE (FOX 13) – Ron Flaville doesn’t go anywhere without his friend Sophia.
Before he met his furry companion, Ron was afraid to leave the house. After two tours in Iraq, Ron returned home with PTSD, severe anxiety, and panic attacks. That’s when he found K-9 Partners for Patriots, a non-profit organization pairing service dogs with veterans.
“If I start having a bad anxiety attack or get crazy nervous, she is always there to jump up on me and lick my face,” said Ron.
That special bond between each veteran and their dog forms over time and with the help of a very special trainer, Mary Peter. Mary started K-9 Partners a year ago and has already helped close to 20 veterans.
“It’s just a passion. I feel like they’ve done enough to help us and help our country that they deserve a chance to live a normal life and I want to be there to help them,” she explained.
Before veterans meet Mary, their lives are anything but normal. Most suffer from night terrors, flashbacks and social disorders. So they come to K-9 Partners for Patriots and face their fears head-on.
“It’s teaching them to walk in a crowd, that no one is going to shoot them from behind, nobody’s gonna hurt them,” Mary continued.
It’s that sense of security that the men and women who come to Mary desperately need.
“I can pretty much go anywhere now and [Sophia’s] always watching my back and lets me know when people come up behind me so I don’t startle and do anything I might regret. It’s made a crazy difference in my life,” Ron said.
It’s a well-deserved change for these veterans and the least, Mary says, she can do to help the men and women who risk their lives to keep country safe.
“They’re changing my life, truly,” she added. “I don’t know who gets the greater blessing, me or them. I love every one of them.”