Lia Surprise Squad helps veteran get gift of service dog

(Western Mass News photo)

Every week, our Lia Auto Group Surprise Squad lends a helping hand to people throughout western Massachusetts.

With the help of a local non-profit with the same mission, this week, we're helping to improve the life of a Vietnam veteran.

"It isn't easy. PTSD isn't easy. The nightmares wake me up at 1, 2:30 a.m. and I can't get back to sleep. I'm afraid to get back to sleep," Daniel Harrington said.

Harrington is a Vietnam veteran with an emotional disability related to his combat in overseas.

"The two tours of Vietnam, I was in the South China Sea, but we were helicoptered into land and we saw a lot of action," Harrington explained.

Reminders of his service to our country are found scattered around Harrington's Easthampton home.

"It does remind me that I was a POW and I have to constantly be reminded of that," Harrington added.

Harrington reached out to the V.A. for help and that's when he met Hillary Cronin, social worker at the Leeds location

"We started talking a little bit more about what's missing in his life and it was really connection," Cronin said.

Harrington added, "Being alone as a vet, sometimes im here all by day long by myself with no one to talk to.

To help improve his quality of life, Cronin's been working to get Harrington a PTSD service dog. "I've had these for about six months because I really thought I had a dog online and they wanted way too much money for it, so I said eventually, eventually I'll get 'em," Harrington added.

$20,000 is the average cost of a service dog.

After several years and a lack of funding, Cronin turned to the Surprise Squad.

Colleen Campbell, founder of the non-profit Heroes, Horses, and Hounds, is donating and training Oliver to be a PTSD service dog for Harrington.

"Our mission is to save two lives at once. There's 3,444 dogs that get euthanized everyday, 488 horses that get sent to slaughter every day, and 22 veterans committing suicide every day. It's really...we wanted to do something that helped all of those," Campbell said.

Jessica Mattson added, "You're helping not only the life of the dog who would be euthanized, but also the person with a disability. It's a miracle."

Heroes, Horses, and Hounds will work with Harrington, spending around 600 hours training Oliver.

"This is the last piece really for him is to just have someone do something with, and love, and give back to," Cronin noted.

Mattson said, "There's such an amazing increase in confidence in sociability."

"This is like a dream come true," Harrington said. If you or a veteran you know is going through a tough time, you can reach out anytime to the Veteran's Crisis Hotline at (800) 273-8255

If you'd like to donate to Heroes, Horses, and Hounds, you can CLICK HERE.

Copyright 2018 Western Mass News (Meredith Corporation). All rights reserved.

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