Meet Paul and emotional support dog Garvey
Agent Orange was a powerful herbicide sprayed over dense tropical growth to deforest the land and uncover hidden enemy troops during the Vietnam War. It caused a myriad of illnesses for many of the 2.4 million veterans who were exposed.
Just ask Paul Bessent, a Vietnam vet who served in the Air Force from 1966 – 1970. “I’ve had a fairly colorful health history, starting with cancer in the ‘70s,” he says. Heart disease, kidney cancer, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) have haunted him, and the VA also discovered his post-traumatic stress disorder. When Paul learned that Southeastern Guide Dogs provided support for veterans, he visited campus to learn more.
Garvey is a sweet yellow Labrador, and she’s recently been matched with Paul as his new emotional support dog. Paul’s voice breaks when he describes their relationship. “She is absolutely the sweetest dog, so sweet it brings tears to my eyes,” he says. “She stays right with me and always has contact with me. She sleeps with me, and I hold her paw until she falls asleep.”
Garvey provides Paul with steady companionship and support, and she helps him remain active as they go for walks each day. “Having responsibility for something that I love so much, it’s very therapeutic,” he says. “This has been a very significant thing for me. She loves me unconditionally!”
Editor’s note: Garvey is an emotional support dog, which is different than a service dog. Service dogs have been taught specific commands that mitigate the effects of a disability such as post-traumatic stress disorder. Emotional support dogs (often referred to as ESAs or emotional support animals) are therapeutic companion dogs that a medical professional has determined provides a benefit. While emotional support dogs are used as part of a medical treatment plan, they are not considered service animals under the A.D.A. Southeastern Guide Dogs provides service dogs as well as emotional support dogs to qualifying veterans.