Like many veterans, when Army and Navy veteran Billy Floyd returned to civilian life, he faced a series of difficult challenges. These included post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), mobility struggles, and diabetes. Billy also has a seizure disorder, which doctors believe was caused due to the number of head injuries he sustained while in combat.
Before finding the Indiana Canine Assistant Network (ICAN), Billy spent nearly a decade searching for a service dog. He began to give up hope, until one of his therapists recommended he look into the Veteran Services Division (VSD) of ICAN.
He immediately reached out to the organization and after a temperament test with his two-year-old Goldendoodle Bella, he found that he could train her to be his service dog. After years of searching for the right program, Billy knew ICAN was the perfect fit.
Currently, Bella is about six months into her service dog training. She and Billy train three days a week with ICAN’s VSD training manager, Deborah Cotton. Billy also works with Bella daily at home to keep her skills sharp.
Billy explained that Bella is no ordinary dog. Not only is she learning to brace to help him stand up, retrieve juice or a cell phone, and go into public places, but she also has the natural ability to detect seizures.
When Bella recognizes that a seizure is coming, she sits down between Billy’s legs several minutes before it occurs. She stays with him until his seizure is over or goes to find help if needed. Billy says Bella gives him peace of mind knowing that he will no longer be suddenly surprised with a seizure in public.
In addition to providing independence, Bella has become a social bridge for Billy to interact with people. Billy says that he doesn’t always want the attention to be on him in public, but he notices that people tend to ask questions about Bella instead of him.
He said, “Bella has brought me out of my shell. I never thought I would be able to do as many interactions with people as I do now. She’s a lifesaver.”
Despite still being in training, Bella has already changed Billy’s life. He says she gives him hope and a reason to get up each day. Bella still has around 18 months left in training, and Billy is excited to see her skills continue to grow.
Billy said, “Bella is the superhero of the story. She’s my beacon of light over dark water.”
You can help veterans like Billy find independence again. Learn more at icandog.org.