Homeland Veterans Magazine August 2017

Page 28

While her military police career was complete May 31, 2012, she always anticipated continuing her 12-year law enforcement career as a civilian. But when an opportunity came to transition into a stay-at-home mother instead for her two young daughters, she jumped at it. The transition to staying home, however, turned out to be blessing as well as a curse.


She enjoyed being there for her daughters, but physical and mental challenges she was trying to manage as a military sexual trauma survivor began to take their toll. She became reclusive, gained 60-70 pounds, began heavily smoking cigarettes and self-medicating with alcohol. She also experienced depression, heightened anxiety, panic attacks and even a rare type of stroke - Reversible Cerebral Vasoconstriction Syndrome - where the arteries of her brain developed blood vessel spasms leading to constriction. “I was not in a good healthy place to say the least,” recalls the Silver Spring, Md. native and Louisville, Ky. resident. “That wasn’t me.

As far back as the mid-1700s, Dog has been recognized as man’s best friend. Frederick, King of Prussia (1740-86) is widely credited with coining the phrase when he referred to one of his Italian Greyhounds as his “best friend.” According to MilitaryHistoryNow.com, archeologists suspect humans have been using dogs in warfare since the animals were first domesticated more than 15,000 years ago. Nowadays militaries around the globe train dogs as messengers, sentries and trackers, as well as bomb, weapon and drug detectors and enemy attackers.

I’d never experienced anxiety or panic attacks before. I used to play on five different soccer teams at once, playing five or six times a week. I went from being crazy active to not moving much at all.” To try and turn things around, she became involved with the local chapter of Team Red, White and Blue, dedicated to helping veterans connect to their community through physical and social activity. That’s when the dominos started to fall in Karr’s favor. “I was volunteering at a Team Red, White and Blue event where I met my good friend Clay Stretch, who had a service dog through K9s for Warriors,” remembers Karr. “He was telling me about how much his dog saved his life and helped him get out again, and encouraged me to apply to get my own. So that’s what I did.

The military community also recognizes that “man’s best friends” can be invaluable as service dogs, helping many of America’s heroes cope with the gamut of mental and physical disabilities they have suffered while selflessly protecting our freedom.

“I applied and it’s a very thorough process,” she adds, “like a 20-page application, hour and a half phone interview and more interviews on site, all to make sure they partner you with the right dog.”

One organization in particular – K9s For Warriors – provides service canines specifically to veterans suffering from posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), traumatic brain injury (TBI), and/or military sexual trauma (MST) as a result of military service post-September 11.

After the screening process comes the “reveal,” when the K9s staff takes the veteran back to the kennels to be introduced to their dog. A three-week training camp is next to help vets bond with their dog and feel more comfortable in public places. That is how Karr was first united with her black Newfoundland/Labrador retriever mix named Blaze.

It is this Florida-based service dog organization, along with Texas-based military non-profit Boot Campaign, that recently came to the rescue of civilian and military police officer Megan Karr, who completed nearly 10 years of military service in 2012 with a variety of life-numbing physical and emotional issues related to PTSD, TBI and MST. She then transferred to the Coast Guard Reserves and finished her military contract in Sector Southeast New England as Port Security and Maritime Enforcement. 28

HOMELAND / August 2017

“I’ve had Blaze for just over a year now and it’s a perfect match,” reports Karr. “He helps me in many different ways because he is really calm, really chill. He’s able to alert me when my headaches are of a more serious nature, and when I need to take fast-acting meds. He wakes me from night terrors and helps me with anxiety and PTSD when I’m out in public. In short, it is thanks to Blaze that I feel comfortable enough leaving the house and doing things I hadn’t been able to do in years.” Because of her new-found confidence with Blaze, Karr was willing to venture out of town to

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