Rafael Aguilera and his service dog Lincoln. Rafael served in the US Army, 2002-2018 (Iraq).

Service dog and training provided by Operation Freedom Paws.

“My doctor mentioned getting a service dog. I didn’t believe an animal would do any good but I was willing to give it a try. I was so tired. I just wanted to see some hope. At Operation Freedom Paws they listened to me. I guess what we veterans need is just to be heard. Don’t give us advice. Just listen to us. And they listened. They explained the program. I still felt skeptical, like it was going to be another stress in my life. Mary came out with Lincoln. I said to myself, ‘What’s this? Is she showing me an example of a dog?’ She said, ‘Rafael, here you go. Meet Lincoln. He will be your service dog.’ Something happened. There were emotions that I had never felt. I had someone to talk to without the feedback, negative or positive. I wanted to be heard and loved. Lincoln started giving me that unconditionally. He would come to me if I was mad or if I would yell. He would hug me or lick me. He would tell me, ‘I’m here. No matter what you do I’m here.’ And that’s what he’s been doing ever since.”

— Rafael  Aguilera

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