Local service dog rides in ambulance to help her owner cope with PTSD

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TOLEDO (13abc Action News) - You've no doubt seen service dogs providing all kinds of help to people around the community. But Star is probably the first of her kind in our region She rides around in a ProMedica ambulance, helping her owner as he battles Post Traumatic Stress Disorder or PTSD.

Star is a one-year-old Golden Retriever, Labrador mix. She's only been on the job for a few weeks but she has already had a big impact on the man she was trained to help.

Louis Belluomini is a ProMedica paramedic. Before this career, he was in the Army for nine years. He served in both Iraq and Afghanistan, "I think the majority of veterans have PTSD to some extent."

Louis says he was diagnosed with PTSD after his first tour. Medicine is what helped him at first, now it's Star, "She's woken me up from nightmares sometimes two and three times a night. She senses when something is off, when it's not right."

Louis says one of the other important things Star does is protect his personal perimeter, "As members of the military we are trained to watch our back and our partner's back. By having her I don't have to ever worry that someone is behind me because she is always watching behind me."

While Star has helped rescue Louis in a sense, she's a rescue too.
He says she belonged to an active duty member of the military who donated her to K9s For Warriors after being deployed. After deciding to get a service dog, Louis went to the organization for training, and the two were paired up right away, "She's still a puppy. She is still learning, but she is so smart. She pick up on things easily. When I am starting to think about things I don't want to think about, I find myself more worried about her than anything. Even when she is not doing a job, she really is doing a job because she is a constant distraction for me."

He says Star has picked up on the routine quickly, "She knows her job and she does it well." After jumping in the ambulance she has a special spot where she sits, "She sits between my partner and I in a little cubby hole. She sits down and waits for me to buckle her in and then we go where we need to."

And having her along for the ride with Louis was a no-brainer for ProMedica. Dave Caris is the Director of Operations for the ProMedica Transportation Network,"Star is definitely an important part of Louis's PTSD therapy as he works though it. A lot of times with PTSD with vets and others who suffer from it they don't open up and start has certainly helped him open up his story more to all of us." His story now includes a dog who has helped change his life in so many ways, with so many chapters yet to come.

If anyone is uncomfortable with dogs, Star stays in her in her crate area of the ambulance.

If you're interested in learning more about K9's For Warriors, the organization that paired up Louis and Star, we've posted a link.