FINDLAY (WTVG) - There's a special movie screening at The University of Findlay Tuesday night. A local man and his dog are featured in a documentary about a program in Florida that connects veterans and service dogs. It's called A New Leash on Life: The K9s For Warriors Story.
Louie Belluomini served in the U.S. Army for nine years. After he was honorably discharged, Louie says he was diagnosed with PTSD and a traumatic brain injury. Louie says life is much better today thanks to the love of his family and a dog that truly has his back.
Louie was deployed to both Iraq and Afghanistan, "I think everybody who goes into a combat zone comes back with some form of PTSD. I know I came back a changed person."
There were nightmares, flashbacks and sleepwalking. But that all began to change with the help of Star. Star is a three-year-old Golden Retriever that was trained by the organization K9s for Warriors, "She knows when she puts her vest on that she is working. As soon as she puts it on, she has a different demeanor. She is lazy when she needs to be and energetic when she needs to be. She is the perfect dog!"
Star is by Louie's side day and night. She's trained to wake him from nightmares, lie on him to keep him from sleep walking and act as he security guard, "She will come on the right side of me if I am standing still with no one in front of me and watch behind me. She is making sure no one comes up from behind and startles me."
Star also goes to work with Louie. He's a paramedic in Putnam and Hancock counties, and Star rides along in the ambulance, "As far as we know she is the only service dog in the country who rides in an ambulance with her handler. She sits between my partner and I. She is belted in. In addition to being there for me, she often helps the people we are treating. Whether it's a child who is afraid to get in the ambulance or someone who is battling PTSD, she helps calm them."
Louie and Star's story is a big part of the documentary, "22 vets a day kill themselves. Think about that, 22 vets a day commit suicide. They made the film not with the intent of raising money, but to raise awareness. K9s For Warriors has paired hundreds of vets with dogs. This documentary will help them continue that life-changing work."
Raising awareness about dogs like Star and the life-changing work she does every day, "I know I am very blessed to have her."
Star's life has truly come full circle. She originally belonged to a solider who donated her to k9s for warriors because he was being deployed. Louie says most of the dogs in the program are rescues.
If you couldn't make tonight's screening, Louie says he is working to set up a second screening in northwest Ohio. The documentary is also streaming on Amazon Prime.
If you'd like to learn more, we've posted links.