Survivors of Domestic Abuse

Service dogs save lives, here is one of our program participants and her dog Andy..

Life takes many turns. Sometimes over a long period of time, wearing you down slowly or in a blink of an eye, so fast that you don’t know what hit you.



My name is Christa, and I am a mother of five children with one granddaughter. I am a dedicated, hard working person, and a Jack of all trades. I was diagnosed with PTSD in July of 2017. Over a long time (1996 -2017), I had gone from a highly motivated person that would take on any challenge such as running a marathon for the Arthritis Society to a person that could no longer control their response to fear, that couldn’t leave the house or go outside without someone with them, that couldn’t remember simple conversations, that had stopped responding to family due to dissociating from reality, and that had lost the ability to cope in many different types of work environments. You see, I had tried hairdressing and dental assisting where I worked under someone else; and I tried cleaning, painting, lawn care, carpentry, and tutoring where I called all the shots and was in control of my work schedule. This didn’t work either because I began avoiding people and would go to work at midnight just so I knew no one would be there.

All these fears were the cause of a bad marriage from 1996 to 2005, where there was a lot of mind games and emotional abuse. These ten years of marriage were brought back to life after a confrontation with my ex-husband in 2017 which pushed me “over the top.” Until this happened, I thought I had been handling the after-effects of this bad relationship fairly well, after all, I was told over and over again it was just in my head and I was the one that was crazy. But now I needed help because, in a blink of an eye, life took another twist with any coping skills I had obliterated.

Over the years of searching for answers from naturopaths, doctors, nutritionists, family members, pastoral caregivers, a psychiatrist, and a mental health worker, I found that they could only help to a degree. In the end, something was always missing. Medication and talking helped but didn’t solve my fear of being alone. It wasn’t until I started to see my mental health worker that things started to turn around. During one of our sessions, somehow the topic of dogs came up. We discussed the fact I had grown up with dogs, I presently owned two dogs, and that I had lost a few years back what would have probably been called my service dog without even realizing it. Chassee had been through everything with me, and he never left my side. That’s when I started researching what possibilities there were for a service K9.

In October 2017, George Leonard from MSAR came into my life, and life has not been the same since. MSAR takes a close look at your needs and struggles and tries their hardest to match you up with the right dog. You see, finding the right K9 match is a really important part of the program. Not every dog can go to just anyone. That’s where the process of finding my forever dog has been different compared to a lot of other people. I would like to say that they paired me with the right dog right away and life began, but in my case, that wasn’t what happened. My first dog, Toby, was great in the beginning. He was loving and responded well to me, but I couldn’t manage his strong personality. My second dog, Gordy was a beautiful Golden Retriever. He helped me through some really hard times, but again he had a strong personality that I couldn’t manage. He needed a strong Handler.

George would tell you I’m a soft handler and a more difficult client to match with the right dog, but not once did George give up on me. His dedication took me through two more dogs until Service K9 Andy came into my life 3 years after starting the program, and what a difference the right dog makes! She has given me my life back. I can go grocery shopping by myself, I can get into a till line without panicking, I can drive my car without having flashbacks, I can be by myself at home and not flinch at every little sound, and I can close the bathroom door and gain back some of my privacy. She wakes me up from bad dreams and constantly keeps me in the present.

What a different life I live now! Am I completely recovered, NO. PTSD is life long, and recovery is ongoing. It can hit hard and unknowingly, but my dogs have made all the difference. MSAR has a supportive community that has helped me to find a way forward and my K9 Andy has literally saved my life. Thank you MSAR for your time, dedication, patience, and for all that you are and all that you do to help people with all sorts of needs be able to function once again or at a greater degree of normality.

I highly recommend MSAR. It is a program well worth the investment.