TOLEDO, OH (WTOL) - Invisible injuries can linger in our veterans long after they are back home.
Right now, a significant number of men and women coming home from overseas suffer from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.
Two million veterans have served in Iraq and Afghanistan, and one out of five them has PTSD.
Every veteran with PTSD has their own unique circumstances and symptoms, which can include flashbacks, insomnia and anxiety.
"I'd wake up a lot of times just in a panic, like I can't breath," said Former Marine Sergeant Mike Petz as he described his nightmares. "It's scary to wake up like that."
But that's where a bright eyed yellow lab named Bosko comes into the picture. He is a service dog specially trained to help this veteran with his PTSD.
"We've done training where if the veteran is having a nightmare in bed, the dog will come up and lick them in the face and wake them up," said trainer John Brown of Let's Train! Dog Training.
"You have an 80-pound dog sitting on your chest licking you and you wake up at three in the morning and this dog is right in your face," Sergeant Petz tells WTOL.
Bosko is the product of a new program called The Paws Forces. It's a branch of the Arms Forces, a local non-profit started in 2009 by Pam Hays to help veterans with Traumatic Brain Injuries and PTSD.
"It was on my heart to do it for many, many years," said Hays. "But I waited and waited and waited until I thought the time was right."
And that time was last year.
In fact, Bosko is the first graduate of their training program.
"We work on teaching basic manners first," Brown explained. "A lot of impulse control, like not taking things off the floor."
But it's definitely a team effort. These dogs spend upwards of six months with trainers Brown and Shane Braun.
Currently, Braun is working with the programs second dog, Simon.
"When you look at his eye contact, it's amazing," said Braun.
Simon was rescued by The Paws Forces from Lucas County Canine Care and Control about six months ago.
"We saved his life so he could help save another," Hays shared.
The goal is for him to pass the assistance dogs public access test before he goes to live with his veteran. These pups come to the veterans highly trained, but anyone who has owned a dog knows, it's a lot of work.
"To say it's easy, it's not," said Sergeant Petz. "But it's strange, because it is a comfort that he's there."
Bosko does more than just wake Petz up from his nightmares. He helps remind him to take his medicine everyday, he gives him a sense of routine, and he is trained to calm Petz down during stressful situations.
"He'll sense when I'm nervous or start getting anxious and he jumps on me and he'll want to leave," said Sergeant Petz.
Bosko does everything Petz does, from work to school to down time in the backyard.
"I know it's helping," said Sergeant Petz. "I love him to death, I wouldn't trade him for the world."
The Paws Forces is definitely in need of donations as it is still in the infancy stages, everything from dog food and service vests to foster trainers.
Anyone interested in attending a fundraiser for the program on Saturday, May 14 can find information here.