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Pet project providing help to Wisconsin veterans

Veteran Joe McGlin and therapy dog-in-training Sophie (WLUK).

WAUPACA COUNTY (WLUK) - A Gulf War veteran from Clintonville is feeling the psychological effects from his years of service.

For the past four years he’s been staying at the State Veterans Home at King but he says recently he’s adjusting better to civilian life.

He credits a lot of the change to a new friend.

Joe McGlin has been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder. But he says, for the past couple of months, a furry, four-legged friend has been proving to be the best medicine.

She’s an 11-pound, 10-month old fluffball who’s the perfect fit for some American heroes.

And she doesn’t mind sporting a little attitude if you get too close to those she loves.

Sophie, a Bichon Shih-Tzu mix, is the first therapy dog-in-training for residents at the State Veterans Home.

She started just a few months ago, but is already proving her worth.

"I would usually just get up, the only times I’d usually leave my room would be to go and eat," says Joe McGlin, explaining what his life was like before Sophie. "Otherwise I usually didn’t leave my room."

McGlin served for a total of 16 years, first during Desert Storm, and later in the National Guard before receiving a medical discharge.

He says his PTSD includes depression and trouble sleeping. But Sophie has now become his pet project.

"I like babysitting her," says McGlin. "Some days I watch her almost the whole day and some days she goes to other floors. She helps more than just me, but I get to watch her the most."

The Veterans Home provides plenty of help for those who have served their country. But sometimes people can only do so much. And that’s when four legs are better than two.

Nursing home administrator Tammy Servatius pushed for the idea of a therapy dog. And it wasn’t long after Sophie was added to her family that she was added to the family of veterans.

"We brought her to work when she was three months old," says Servatius. "So Sophie knows no other environment than the nursing home. She knows wheelchairs, scooters, alarms, everything."

McGlin’s social worker said, the difference in his demeanor is impossible to miss since Sophie stamped her paw print on his life.

"Since he’s gotten Sophie, he has been out and about, people are, strangers are stopping him and he’s telling them all about his little girl Sophie," says Jen Shaw. "It’s just opened him up tremendously."

And while most people don’t look forward to the end of the weekend, McGlin does, because he knows what’s on the other side.

"I know every Monday she comes. She’ll be there waiting. She comes and runs right down to my room," says McGlin.

Sophie still has a few classes to go before she becomes a certified therapy dog. And more pups may soon be joining the pack at the Veterans Home. Servatius told me they’d like to add about 4 more eventually, one for each floor.

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