My name is Tina and this is my best friend, Cookie. I served on active duty from 2007 – 2013 as an Air Force medic. While on active duty, I spent my career helping others and the most rewarding part, saving lives. While on my second tour in Afghanistan I’ve experienced events that I’ve struggled to let go of. I’ve always excelled in my career and envisioned my life to be filled with success and happiness. I have a husband and three beautiful kids, I worked hard and did well at everything I put my mind to. I separated from active duty in 2013 and I’ve felt like my life has been tumbling down ever since. Anxiety, depression, insomnia, chronic pains, and PTSD seem to completely consume my life. I’ve found it extremely difficult to maintain relationships with friends and family and more importantly, I’ve struggled with my relationship with my husband. I have service connected disabilities that have made it difficult to think clearly, to remember simple tasks, to maintain relationships and jobs. These past few years have made me feel lonely and lost. I’m not the same person I was prior to joining the military. I find myself saying “I used to” a lot. I USED TO have friends. I USED TO go hiking. I USED TO rock climb, go camping, play sports. I USED TO be happy.  I USED to have a purpose. Something I think many veterans struggle with after leaving the military is getting back what USED TO be and finding their new purpose.

Last year, I rescued Cookie with the fear of her being euthanized if I didn’t take her in. I thought I was saving Cookie but I realized that she started to save me. She has helped me in ways that I can’t even explain. All the hours of therapy and countless medications; it was Cookie that really made a difference. She is helping me one day at a time to find my purpose, she is there for me when I have no one else, she has made these past months bearable. After experiencing the darkest time in my life, I felt it was even more important to have Cookie with me. I found the Give Us Paws organization and after learning more about the ways they can train Cookie to help me, it has given me HOPE. Hope, that I can finally reclaim my life so I can stand tall again.