Tracy Claudio wanted to be a mortician. However, the expensive degree required was out of her reach financially, so Tracy enlisted in the U.S. Navy to use her GI Bill to pay for her education.
Tracy got a job in a Naval hospital in 1994, working on hospital rotations. She earned the distinctions of Blue Jacket of the Year and Sailor of the Year. But it wasn’t without impact – Tracy was diagnosed with PTSD while still in the service as a result of witnessing traumatic events.
“After graduating with my degree, I worked as a mortician for several years,” Tracy says. “But, the Navy changed me.”
She wanted to give back to fellow veterans and found work doing mental health research at the VA. Tracy says her PTSD symptoms were getting worse. “I was nervous and afraid to come home because it was dark,” Tracy says.
After learning about Canine Companions, Tracy knew a trained service dog was what she needed. However, Tracy wasn’t sure she needed the skills of a Canine Companions service dog. A life-changing service dog named Hannon proved her wrong.
Hannon is trained to assist Tracy with symptoms of her PTSD – even the ones she didn’t realize were happening.
“I never knew how much I move in my sleep,” says Tracy. “But with Hannon there, he jumps on the bed and lies next to me stopping the nightmares.” Hannon also makes sure Tracy doesn’t let her anxiety and depression keep her shut away.
“Hannon decided to tug off the blankets in the morning if I don’t get up after the third snooze of my alarm – a product of my mental health,” she states. “When I don’t feel like I can get ready to face the day and I miss that third snooze, he helps me get up.”
Today, Tracy is no longer afraid to come home after dark because Hannon knows exactly which lights to turn on around the house.
“I was worried that having a dog would make people look at me differently. And it did – positively,” Tracy recalls. “Suddenly, people at work and in my family recognized that I had been dealing with PTSD silently for years. Thanks to Hannon, now I can finally talk about it.”