A Texas veteran was so deeply affected by post-traumatic stress disorder that he couldn't bear to leave his home, but everything has changed since he met his service dog Merrick.
"I don’t have to worry about watching my own back," Army Airborne Specialist McLean Raybon of Edna, said in an interview with Merrick Pet Care, who worked with nonprofit K9 for Warriors to gift him his dog. "He got me."
His wife, Kerrin Raybon, explained that when he returned home after deployment in Afghanistan, he was a different person.
“He just shut down, mentally [and] physically,” Kerrin explained. “He was there, but he wasn’t there. Just to get him to go anywhere was a struggle.”
McLean said he hardly left the house. When he had to pick up groceries, he would rush in and out of the store.
“[I was] scared to go out in public, not really wanting to do anything,” McLean said.
They applied for a service dog with K9s for Warriors, and Kerrin said the day they were approved for a service dog was "the most exciting news."
The chocolate lab was rescued from a Jacksonville, Fla., animal shelter in July 2016, the nonprofit said in a statement. He had to be cured of heartworm before he started training, and joined the family in January 2017.
McLean explained that with the help of Merrick, he felt more comfortable doing things outside of the house. He can even browse through the aisles at the grocery store.
When McLean has night terrors, Merrick notices the sweat on his face and wakes him immediately.
“Merrick brings the happiness out in McLean, the person I knew that he was prior,” his wife said.
And, McLean agreed.
“They called it a new leash on life,” he said. “I was looking for a second chance. I was lucky as hell.”