Man’s best friend could be a soldier’s life-saving cure

Georgetown's American Legion Post led a fundraiser to provide a local veteran with a PTSD service dog. (WCCU)

After 4 years of service as a military police officer in the army, including a tour in Iraq, Layton Warstler of Georgetown now faces a battle within.

"It's a big adjustment going from that to living a normal life and trying to transition back into the civilian world after you separate,” Warstler said.

The diagnosis came easy, but finding an effective treatment plan proved more difficult.

"I've been on a rough estimate [of] probably over 15 different medications,” Warstler said.

But this Georgetown hero isn't alone in his fight.

"These kids should not have to suffer like this,” Dave Hughes of the Georgetown American Legion Post said. “This you know is kind of our way of wrapping our arms around them and saying 'Hey, you're not alone. We are going to help you. We are going to take care of this'. "

Hughes and the Georgetown American Legion are raising money to provide veterans with PTSD service dogs.

Each dog costs about $7,500, but Hughes said telling Warstler he was picked as the recipient was priceless.

"He's not a real excitable person, but he was actually excited," Hughes said.

Everything about the idea of a service dog excites Warstler.

"Animals in general are the best companions,” Warstler said. “Just to be medicine free and to have a very highly trained animal that knows me that can pick up on my senses if I'm not feeling good, if I'm having anxiety.”

Warstler will be the first veteran to receive a service dog from the fundraiser, so far the post has raised enough money to purchase and train two dogs.

Dog trainer Tony Piatt has begun his search for Warstler’s perfect K9 fit.

Piatt said he meets with the veteran first to find out their triggers.

“If the veteran starts having bad thoughts maybe like suicidal or something like that, and has a trigger maybe like heavy breathing or starts to shake their leg, the dog is trained to react to that,” Piatt said. “Jump up on them, lick their face, to get their attention.”

Warstler has hope that the new K9 companion may just be the perfect cure.

“How he can help me and how I can help him,” Warstler said. “Because he'll have an owner. He'll have a best friend and he'll be my best friend.”

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