Bryan enlisted in the Navy in 1988 right out of high school. In 1991, he was called to fight in Operations Desert Storm and Desert Shield and received his first combat action award. After 10 years of active duty, Bryan then joined the Naval Reserves only to be called up again for Operations Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom. During this period he received his second Combat Action Award and two Navy and Marine Achievement Medals.
Though Bryan served his country with pride and distinction throughout all three of his active duty deployments, he returned home with severe Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), dissociative fugue and amnesia which only worsened with time. He hit rock bottom after losing his family and his home. With not many options left, he enrolled at Tallahassee Community College (TCC) and tried to pick up the pieces.
Bella is a three-year-old AKC Golden Retriever. She was donated by a family in Pensacola, Florida in December of 2012 with the sole purpose of becoming a service dog for a veteran in need. Instantly Bryan knew Bella was special in many ways.
Soon after getting home Bella went into specialized training to become a service animal. With the guidance of some great organizations such as Healing 4 Heroes , Bella soon learned the specialized tasks needed to help Bryan such as detecting certain medical conditions (blood pressure, heart rate changes, etc.) before Bryan notices them, waking him from nightmares and even calling 911 using a special button to reach a trained operator who, in turn, can either contact a friend or medical personnel. She is also trained to do what is called posting to protect Bryan’s personal space which is one of the issues Bryan faces every day.
Bryan and Bella
But Bella wasn’t done there. Early on, Bryan recognized how much she wanted to help others and in early 2014 Bella started training as a therapy animal. After many tests and evaluations, Bella became part of the Tallahassee Memorial Healthcare's Animal Therapy program , one of the largest in the nation, where she enjoys spending hours comforting patients and visitors. She also spends several hours a week in TCC’s Disability Support Services , visits with TCC’s Ghazvini Center for Healthcare Education students and has worked with the Big Bend Homeless Coalition helping the homeless.
Bella goes everywhere with Bryan as his inspiration and protector while also bringing joy and happiness to everyone she encounters. She is a special soul who only wants to give love and take away the pain Bryan and others experience.
How You Can Help
Unfortunately, Bella is in pain every day, though you would never know it. She has torn both ACL’s in her rear legs and will require major surgery. Just like humans, this is very painful and takes a lengthy amount of time to recover. We are asking for help in order to raise enough funds to cover her surgery and her aftercare so she can continue being a service dog to Bryan and a therapy dog to hundreds of others. The cost of the surgery alone is $6,000 but after care and the expense of installing a lift on Bryan's vehicle will bring the total to above $10,000. Bella was donated by a private individual and trained by volunteers. To replace her would cost around $16,000. But money could never replace the care and love she has shared to so many people. She was not donated by the VA and, therefore, the VA will not provide the funds for any of her care. Bryan pays for all of Bella's food, supplies, medication and veterinary care out of his own pocket, on a fixed income.
Please give what you can and spread the word so we can get Bella the care she needs!
*Donations above and beyond the campaign limit will benefit the Semper Fi Fund
- Sharon Davidson
- Karen Miller
- Susan Wright
- Karen Miller
- Karen Miller
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