HELENA — Service dogs are one way to help veterans cope with traumatic experiences from military service. One non-profit provides them free of charge to veterans.
Arbor is a playful, loving dog according to the owner, Amber. Another special thing about Arbor is that he is a service dog trained for veterans with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), among other things. Amber joined the U.S. Army in the mid 80’s and knew from the start, it was going to be a long journey.
“Right from the get-go, in basic training, I learned very quickly that I was a female,” says Amber Skylar, a veteran. “I went through hell being a female."
Amber says she dealt with sexual harassment and assaults throughout her military career. She suffers from PTSD after her sexual trauma. For about 30 years, the invisible wound kept Amber depressed, away from living a social life. Then, Arbor came around to help her overcome that.
“I never saw myself as my wound being worthy,” says Amber. “Having Arbor was like a badge of honor for me. It was like coming home, that I could just embrace that I had served too."
Arbor comes from the Canine Companions for Independence, a non-profit that provides service dogs for those in need like veterans with PTSD. December 2020 will mark one year that Amber and Arbor have been together. Within the one year, Amber says she’s gained more independence, freedom, and a social life.
“I find myself out for an hour, maybe two hours exploring things, looking around. It is incredibly healthy for me because I could stay in this house for three, five days and never leave and never have a problem with it. I can't do that with Arbor, it's medicine, he has to get out and I love him,” says Amber.
There are currently 16 Montanans with service dogs from this organization; Amber is the only one that is a military veteran.
Amber hopes her story encourages veterans to take action and seek the necessary help.
To learn more whether a service dog is right for you, click here.