How a Pit Bull Healed an Air Force Veteran – and Others Like Them

May 25, 2011  


By Leslie Smith (as first posted on Dogtime )

David Sharpe wanted a pit bull. He’d come back from the war angry, violent, and out of control so he decided to get himself a fighter. A dog he could relate to. Sure enough, he found a tough-looking bundle of muscle, with clipped ears and built like a tank, and he brought her home. But Cheyenne turned out to be a teacher and a healer. Not a fighter.

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) — a condition shared by Sharpe and millions of other U.S. vets — can be every bit as debilitating as a physical injury, and treatment can be just as elusive. But university researchers and even the Walter Reed Medical Center have begun seriously studying — and noting — the remarkable success of dogs as therapy.

Like many of us, Sharpe didn’t need an official report to confirm for him that dogs heal wounds. In fact, Sharpe’s life was so positively changed by Cheyenne, he founded his own nonprofit to ensure other PTSD sufferers receive the same healing he did. Pets2Vets (p2v.org) matches rescue dogs with war veterans, a truly life-saving effort, considering this statistic from the P2V website: "There are 18 veterans that commit suicide everyday and one (1) animal is put down every second.

The five-minute video story of Sharpe and Cheyenne is worth watching in its entirety.

How Dogs Help Veterans Cope with PTSD on Time.com

The scenes of Sharpe snuggling his beautiful Cheyenne triggered the waterworks, but it was the last clip that sent me over the edge. Sharpe visits the pup pictured above, a pit bull who still bears the scars of severe abuse, and who is still waiting for a home. The vet struggles to keep his emotions in check as he describes the dog’s brutal background — and the potential for human and canine to heal each other.

Two species in need, rescuing each other. It’s almost enough to give one hope for the human race.

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Comments

52 Responses to “How a Pit Bull Healed an Air Force Veteran – and Others Like Them”
  1. woofslc says:

    Thank you for posting this, I am involved with two groups that utilize dogs for veterans, one is my Delta Society affiliate that my dog Honey and I are a registered therapy team with, Therapy Animals of Utah (http://network.bestfriends.org/initiatives/pitbulls/17100/news.aspx), and the other is a newer organization called Canines with a Cause, that pulls local shelter dogs to be trained as service and therapy dogs for veterans and others in need. I love reading about how dogs help others heal, the human-animal bond is an amazing thing!

    http://www.facebook.com/pages/Canines-with-a-Cause-CWAC/183130681728892

    http://www.therapyanimalsutah.org/

  2. StubbyDog says:

    @woofslc Thanks, you know, you have a story in all this. If you want to share please email us. We would love to highlight these organizations on StubbyDog. ([email protected])

  3. RendaLuvaas says:

    Now If the rest of the USA can accept the fact that shelter dogs (most of whom are pit or pit mix) can and are service dogs. Pet2Vets is one of the most outstanding things I have came across in many years. It is sad to see news reports re: pitbull on city bus in DC (a well behaved service dog who happened to be a pitbull) and Denver’s ban on the breed wasn’t enough, they followed it with a ban on pits being service dogs (I think this is still in the courts)after a Vet who lived in Denver dodged his beloved pitbull being PTS because it is also his service dog. I wish Mr. Sharpe and his little lady the best. Bless all the Vets and the beast that heal. A match made on earth but sent from Heaven.

  4. woofslc says:

    @StubbyDog @woofslc Done Laura, just sent you an email from my bestfriends.org email address! ~melissa l.

  5. skreidle says:

    Oh! The entirety of the text “”There are 18 veterans that commit suicide everyday and one (1) animal is put down every second. The five-minute video story of Sharpe and Cheyenne can be found” is all a link, only ending because “here” is the next link. (Found that out trying to follow the link to the video. 🙂

  6. LeahMcGregor says:

    Denver has lifted their ban on Pit Bulls as Service Dogs.

    Leah and Ace

  7. skreidle says:

    @LeahMcGregor Only because they were forced to by the Federal government under the ADA–and they did everything they could to balk and stall. Now that it’s passed, they’re all up in arms that “People could have pit bulls in the city pretending that they’re service dogs, and we won’t be able to tell! Oh noes!” Blood in the streets, eh?

  8. StubbyDog says:

    @skreidle Grrrr….gremlins got to the story, thanks for the eagle eyes!

  9. StubbyDog says:

    @RendaLuvaas Beautifully said. Thank you for your comments, we hope stories like this will help people to see how pit bulls make excellent service and therapy dogs.

  10. IrisLambka says:

    Now w need to make all of them service dogs

  11. IrisLambka says:

    We now need to make All the wonderful Pittie’s Service dogs

  12. StubbyDog says:

    @IrisLambka Agreed! Thanks for commenting.

  13. ShelleySainSeitz says:

    I’d love to watch the video but it just keeps playing Yahoo commercials!

  14. StubbyDog says:

    @ShelleySainSeitz Sorry you are having a problem, there is no problem on this end that we can see. Here’s the direct link: http://www.time.com/time/video/player/0,32068,671301612001_2030797,00.html

  15. skreidle says:

    @IrisLambka Well, to be fair, even though Service Dogs aren’t closely regulated–and generally speaking, the owner of a service dog shall not be legally required to divulge the nature of the service that the dog provides, which allows people to game that system–it does something of a disservice to actual service dogs to game the system and pretend that Any Old Dog is a Service Dog.

  16. IrisLambka says:

    i have seen some great pit bull service dogs in Boulder, colorado

  17. kujayhawks77 says:

    @woofslc You should check out http://www.facebook.com/pages/Leonidas-the-Amazing-3-Legged-Dog/109932325742266.

    Leonidas is a 3 legged 2 pawed Pit Bull who was originally used as bait and now is a certified Delta Society therapy dog. He’s quite an amazing story.

  18. kujayhawks77 says:

    @woofslc Figured I’d post Leo’s video too. http://vimeo.com/14045683

  19. StubbyDog says:

    @kujayhawks77 @woofslcHe is quite a looker! and he is amazing, thanks for sharing!

  20. IrisLambka says:

    The video would not work

  21. BurrowTKlown says:

    I have a Pit Bull Service Dog. Her name is Sadie and she too is an abuse rescue. I too suffer from PTSD, but not from war stuff, from other traumas. I can’t imagine my life without her.

  22. StubbyDog says:

    It sounds perfect then that you and Sadie found each other.

  23. IrisLambka says:

    Awe that is so wonderful i had a baby like that Her name was HOPE I lost her way to early Have a wonderful loving t life ogether and enjoy each other every minute

  24. StubbyDog says:

    @IrisLambka Thanks for your comments, it’s true to enjoy every moment with your doggie.

  25. StubbyDog says:

    @BurrowTKlown If you would like to share your story, we would love to post it on StubbyDog. If you’re interested, please contact [email protected] org. Thanks.

  26. IrisLambka says:

    Yup we don’t know what the next hour or day brings sadly

  27. KI4MYN says:

    @StubbyDog @IrisLambka They also remind us to live in the now and not the past. Learning to read their body language has really helped me in my training….

  28. KI4MYN says:

    @StubbyDog @IrisLambka My Brothers Wife has a Pit Bull named Lady. He is an OTR Truck Driver and she is too. She also has mobility disabilities so my Brother plays with the dog to keep her fit and happy. Her name is Lady and I love her. I am Training an Australian Stumpy Tail Cattle Dog AKA Timmon’s Biters or Hall’s Heeler

  29. IrisLambka says:

    Embrace all the wonderful moments in your heart and pictures i look at my Hope every day

  30. StubbyDog says:

    @KI4MYN @IrisLambka Sounds like Lady is a lucky lady. Thanks for sharing.

  31. StubbyDog says:

    @IrisLambka very well said. Thanks,

  32. Bullies2Love says:

    I am not in the military, but after the death of my husband two years ago, and if it weren’t for my 3 Pit Bulls I would be dead by now. Sadly, you would think the important people in your life would be worth living for but when you become depressed nothing matters. My Reyna especially, in which she is a truly misunderstood dog is my my most lovely one, and knows when I am upset, and will cuddly up to me demanding for the kisses. Now I face losing my dogs due to foreclosure. I relate with fighting with my emotions as well and the dogs keep me sane or from going insane.

  33. IrisLambka says:

    Yes my animals keep me from going over the edge My 14 yr old cat sits on my lap when i hold the ashes of my pittie girl HOPE and cry

  34. StubbyDog says:

    @Bullies2Love thanks for sharing your story, and we are so sorry you are faced with losing your wonderful dogs that keep you going. Hopefully you find a solution where you can keep all your dogs because they need you as much as you need them. Keep us posted and good luck.

  35. StubbyDog says:

    @IrisLambka Aw, our animals always know exactly what to do for us.

  36. IrisLambka says:

    they do

  37. StubbyDog says:

    @JMattHicks And we do! thanks for your support, we are happy about Sharpe and Cheyenne.

  38. IrisLambka says:

    One day i will have another Pittie

  39. davesprettylady says:

    Before I got sick I had every intention of going into the military, and it crushed me when I couldn’t. I have a pit, Goliath who serves as my emotional support and mobility support dog. I trained him myself as the laws allow for that in my state. My best friend as well as her brother and father are in the Air Force. I could not be more proud of her. This video made me bawl my eyes out. I will most certainly be checking out their website and seeing if there is anything I can do to help. God Bless!

  40. StubbyDog says:

    @davesprettylady Thanks for sharing, we are glad you and Goliath have each other, sounds like a match made in heaven.

  41. IrisLambka says:

    What a lovely story and truer words never spoken You see my girl HOPE healed me She is l in Rainbow Bridge and I miss her so. i think of her each and everyday

  42. StubbyDog says:

    @IrisLambka Thanks Iris. It’s amazing how dogs can heal us like no other.

  43. MarissaMacina says:

    First and foremost I want to express my gratitude and unconditional amount of support for all the men and women who protect our country everyday. You are the most unselfish people in the world and all I can say to you is THANK YOU. Second, I want to say that I think P2V is a wonderful idea. There is nothing greater then the bond between a human and their dog. They love you unconditionally no matter what and they never judge you. That was an amazing video and I hope Cheyenne and Zapper, bring those veterans nothing but love and happiness forever more. God Bless our Troops and their amazing furbabies <3

  44. StubbyDog says:

    @MarissaMacina Thanks Marissa, the bond between a dog and human is absolutely incredible.

  45. Lisaann0167 says:

    Thank You David for what you have done for our country! I am so happy that you saved Cheyenne AND she saved you!!!!!

    I started fostering pit bulls 5 months ago AND I STILL HAVE MY FIRST PIT BULL(had a few others along the way) FOSTER!!! I AM IN LOVE WITH HIM!!! I CANT GIVE HIM UP! THIS IS THE MOST AMAZING BREED OF DOG I HAVE EVER ENCOUNTERED!!!! I WILL NEVER BE WITHOUT A PIT BULL……SO HAPPY!!!!!

    GOD BLESS YOU DAVID AND CHEYENNE!!!!!

    PS my chihuahua and my pit are BEST FRIENDS!!! As well as my 4 children..

  46. StubbyDog says:

    @Lisaann0167 Thanks Lisa for the ringing endorsement of pit bulls. And we salute you for fostering pit bulls too!

  47. IrisLambka says:

    And another Thank You for what you have done for this country Pits are really quite the great loving dogs

  48. JenniferGriff says:

    Pit bulls are or used to be called Nanny Dogs/

  49. leezechka says:

    After watching the video I am in love with that man AND his dog!