As featured in the 4 Paws for Ability 2018 Annual Report
Matt Powell left the United States Air Force as a Technical Sergeant, but his time serving his country had changed him, forever. Post Traumatic Stress left him only a fraction of who he was, unable to function in society that expected so much of him. He spent him his time at home, alone. The house was locked up, blinds were down and the depression and anxiety of life was all that kept him company. Matt certainly isn’t alone in his struggle and like many other veterans, found resources limited and frankly, unsure of who or what would actually help him.
In December 2018, Matt was matched with his 4 Paws for Ability service dog, Razzmic. While most service dog relationships take time to blossom, for the bond to form, and for each half of the partnership to understand one another, it would be an understatement to say that in this case, the changes were happening at warp speed and Matt and Razzmic’s classmates saw these sometimes subtle and sometimes dramatic changes each and every day of class. Matt started the first day nestled in the corner, quiet and without much engagement with those around him. When Razzmic came out to meet him, Matt and Razzmic locked eyes, and it seemed like, at least for a few minutes Matt forgot the crowded room around him.
He doesn’t remember being in a mall since 2004. Half of class would require working on public access…in the local mall. Unsure if he would be able to do that, Matt started to figure out what everyone means when they say 4 Paws is family. By graduation day, the person everyone met on the first day was gone. There was a long embrace with donors to the 4 Paws for Veterans program, and a verbose thank you, that touched everyone in the room. “Everyone is thanking me, thanking my fellow veterans, but you guys don’t understand what you guys are doing here. All of this, the family and the unity that I’ve left when I got out of the military for PTSD. You don’t understand, but this is family.” Matt shared with everyone, he had been a prisoner of his home since 2007 and his life was running to the store for essentials and getting home as fast as possible to his closed blinds and empty rooms. But now, Razzmic. “With Razzmic…well, she gets everybody.” And she definitely gets Matt.
Months out from class, Matt shines in the new life he has with Razzmic. He finds himself being more social, and while his anxiety isn’t gone, he’s able to manage it. He’s made better connections to his family and finds himself actually talking to people when he’s out shopping, which takes a little more time than it used to. He shared with us at one time he even debated getting a dog, but he did and it’s the best thing he could have done to change his life. “Service dogs, it works.”