An Ohio US Army veteran who found new life as a Paramedic is quick to respond to any emergency he is called to- with a four-legged partner by his side.
A former Military Policeman and veteran of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, Louis Belluomini was diagnosed with PTSD after returning home from his Afghan deployment in 2009.
Belluomini says he did not realize he had Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder until his family noticed that he did not want to be alone and exhibited other quirks that were out of the ordinary.
When he and his wife moved in together, that was when the Belluominis decided to take action.
“We realized, ‘Hey, this is something that is starting to be more of a problem,’ ” Belluomini said.”That’s when we decided to deal with it.”
In September of this month, Belluomini was introduced to Star, a 1-year-old Lab/Golden Retriever mix who would later become his partner through the K9s For Warriors organization in Northern Florida. The organization assists Post-9/11 service members with PTSD, Traumatic Brain Injuries or military members who were afflicted by sexual assault.
K9s For Warriors education coordinator Brianna Ehrhart says the dogs are trained before being assigned to their final handlers, which includes housing, more training and food. Eight people are enrolled on average in the three-week program every month, with the entire operation being funded by sponsors and donors.
Interestingly enough, 90% of all the dogs used in the program are rescues or shelter dogs.
Ehrhart says Belluomini has a “bubbly, outgoing” personality and was very happy with Star.
“By the time he left, he was incredibly happy to leave with Star and to have her accompany him in the world,” Ehrhart said.
Star does a variety of tasks for Belluomini, including waking him up from nightmares, watching his back when it is exposed and quietly getting between him and someone who causes him anxiety.
While Star rides in the ambulance with Belluomini, she does not accompany him if he has to board lifeflight helicopters- instead, she stays inside the ambulance and waits for him at the hospital.
Dave Caris is the director of operations for ProMedica Transportation Network Air and Mobile and Belluomini’s supervisor. While Belluomini has only been under his supervision for a year, he said Star is the second service dog in the service, with the other belonging to a nurse in the Intensive Care Unit at the Toledo Hospital.
“The dog can be very comforting for kids and sometimes puts a smile on elderly patients’ face,” Caris said.
If a person is uncomfortable with dogs, Star can move up to the front of the ambulance. Otherwise, she occupies her own space that Belluomini refers to as “the doghouse.”
According to the Miami Herald, while Star is only still a puppy, she knows the difference between work and play time.
“When she is at work with me she is my tool, and when we’re at home she’s a family dog,” Belluomini said. “She knows her job is first and foremost.”
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