TUPELO – Paul Gregg got to meet his new best friend Friday. He met the girl who made it possible Monday afternoon.
For a year, Quincy was the pet of Daris and Lisa Wells, and their daughter, Bren. But the rambunctious German Shepherd was outgrowing their small Red Bay, Alabama home.
“We got him when he was 8-weeks old,” said Daris Wells. “We knew he deserved a better life than a cramped pen in a little backyard. He needs more room and more attention.”
So the family decided in May to donate him to K-9 Training Center in Tupelo to be trained as a service dog for a wounded warrior. Gregg, 50, a U.S. Air Force veteran who served during the first Gulf War drove from Jacksonville, Florida, last week to begin bonding with Quincy, 18 months.
In a tearful reunion, Bren Wells said goodbye to her puppy and formally walked him over to Gregg. During the war, he was exposed to at least 27 different nerve agents that attack the body at a molecular level. He has chronic pain and nerve damage. Because of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), he has nightmares and shies away from crowds. But just the idea of getting a service dog made a difference and reduced his symptoms.
“Just the text that this was all possible was enough to calm me,” said Gregg, who has been staying at the training center to bond with Quincy. “I feel right at home with him. I’ve had some of the best sleep I’ve had in years the last few nights.”
In addition to living with Gregg, Quincy will be his partner as he travels around raising awareness for PTSD and the suicide rate among veterans. One study showed 23 veterans a day take their own lives.
When Steve and Mary Ann Shaffer bought the K-9 Training Center last November, they wanted to give back and knew they could train service dogs for veterans.
“Studies have shown that just having a dog by their side helps out tremendously with PTSD,” said Mary Ann Shaffer. “And German Shepherds make the best service dogs. They have a protective side that is innate. The older they become, the more bonded they are with their human.”
And Quincy is not the last service dog the Shaffers will train for a veteran. Steve Shaffer said when the news of this project got out, a friend donated a 2-year-old German Shepherd that will go to the next veteran.