Keith Campeau returned home after a tour of duty in Afghanistan in 2011, but he wasn't the same soldier who had left.
Like so many other veterans, Keith developed a crippling case of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). He was back in his hometown of Edmonton, Alberta, but his experiences in the military prevented him from living the life he was used to. Crowds made him anxious and uncomfortable, and simple excursions like walking down the street or visiting a public area became more difficult.
To cope with the psychological affects of his PTSD, Keith had one saving grace. All he needed was an open road to take him and his motorcycle far away from the stress and chaos. He told The Dodo,
"When I first got back, that was my one escape--to jump on the bike and take a ride when I was getting out of hand. That was a kind of self-induced therapy."
He found peace in the solitude and roar of the engine, but when he was walking down a busy street or shopping in a store, jumping on his bike wasn't an option. He needed another outlet, and his psychologist recommended a dog.
The healing powers of dogs have long since been recognized in the world of psychology. Their companionship offers people affection, support, and a sense of normalcy when their lives seem to be spiraling out of control. Therapy dogs are trained to help the physically disabled, and sometimes, simply their presence and loyalty is an invaluable comfort.
Keith didn't need a service dog to open doors or support him physically. But he needed a friend that would be there for him when he was overwhelmed and without a way out. That's why he chose Flo. Keith and his wife found the Border Collie puppy online. Her owners had 26 puppies they needed to find homes for, and Keith picked Flo out of the pack.
She was small, but it didn't take long for her to grow and be Keith's constant companion. He started taking his new dog on walks and was amazed when she was able to pick up on his mood changes.
"She keeps me grounded out in public. With my PTSD, I don't do well in crowds and with unfamiliar people and places. If there's someone coming around -- this could be someone walking past me from behind -- she lets me know there's someone coming. She has my back."
When Flo was old enough, Keith started taking her to an organization that trains service dogs for veterans, Courageous Companions. She's working toward completing her training, and when she does, she'll be an officially certified MSAR service dog.
While she completes her official training, Flo works with her owner every day. She influences how he feels in public, but he couldn't forget about his first outlet--his motorcycle.
"When I started training with Flo, I thought, 'Well, I can't take one of my loves away for the other,' so I incorporated the saddle bags and had the trunk modified. Now, wherever I go, she goes, whether it's summer or winter."
Flo sits safely in her specially-designed seat with goggles over her eyes as her best friend takes her for tours of the countryside. With Flo riding behind him, Keith combines his two favorite things. And Flo may be only along for the ride, but she's a true biker dog. Keith says,
"She loves it. In the spring, I don't know who's happier, me or her."
To learn more about how service dogs help veterans in need, visit Courageous Companions online, or consider donating to their cause.
What do you think about Keith and Flo? Let us know in the comments.
All images by Keith Campeau via The Dodo
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