Any dog owner knows that their pooch can be so much more than a tail-waggin’, ball-chasin’, bundle of energy with distinct personality and unwavering loyalty. Canines can help those suffering mentally or physically and can even play a big role in the recovery process. If you’re looking for proof just ask Iraq War veteran Bill Campbell…
While overseas, Sargent Campbell suffered a traumatic brain injury that resulted in him receiving full disability and military leave. To help him regain some normality in his life, he was given a yellow Labrador named Pax, and the unbelievable bond he formed with his pooch led him on a beautiful journey to connect with some unlikely people…
Sargent Bill Campbell, a National Guard veteran turned biologist at the state Department of Fish and Wildlife, couldn’t sit idly by as his countrymen shed blood in the Iraq War. So, in 2004, he re-enlisted to serve.
From ’04-’05, he managed security at an overseas military base. During his tenure there, he suffered concussions, took shrapnel to his brain, and came far too close to too many car bombs. Combat took its toll, and he was deemed 100 percent disabled.
In fact, by the time he returned home to Washington State, the 47-year-old suffered from post-traumatic stress and anxiety so severe that he was afraid to leave his house. The ghosts of death and destruction haunted his every move. He needed serious help.
In stepped Pax, the 17-month-old yellow Labrador and service dog trained to help him face the challenges of life. Donated to Sargent Campbell by the non-profit organization, Puppies Behind Bars, Pax had a tough task ahead of him—was he up to the challenge?
Right away, Pax’s very presence forced Sargent Campbell to do the impossible with surprising regularity: “Pax forces me to go out,” Campbell said to ABC News. “He has to go for walks.” But the dog had a far more profound impact than that.
Sargent Campbell’s condition made a trip to the grocery store or deli impossible. Fears of hidden snipers or assailants sneaking up on him had him constantly looking over his shoulder in terror. Pax helped with that, too.
Pax was trained to literally watch Sargent Campbell’s back! “If I go places and tell him to sit,” the Sargent said, “he faces the opposite direction and it’s comforting…Pax will lie down, and if someone is coming up from behind me, he’ll sit up and warn me.”
Come nightfall, the dog sleeps in bed beside Sargent Campbell and his wife, Domenica—both seen below. When the troubled veteran inevitably wakes from a nightmare, he can find Pax at his side and know he’s in bed at home in Washington.
Despite some uncomfortable moments with Pax—random barks from the dog or strangers wanting to pet him—Sargent Campbell admitted the dog steadies him in a life dominated by his tumultuous mental state. Because of that, the Sargent had an interesting thought…
Could he take Pax to visit the woman who trained him? Could he see the woman who saved his own life by instilling the know-how into Pax? Sargent Campbell did just that, and the journey was far more moving than he could’ve imagined.
OWN / YouTube
See, Pax was trained by an inmate at Bedford Hills Correctional Facility, a maximum security prison for women. The prison—located in New York—was a 3,000-mile jaunt away. Sargent Campbell made the trip with his pooch and Domenica at his side.
On his return to the facility where he spent his formative years, Pax was noticeably excited, and his excitement only grew as he got closer and closer to the woman who once trained him. Then, he finally saw her.
When Pax saw his old trainer, Laurie Kellogg, there was no doubt as to whether or not the pooch missed her. He sprinted towards her open arms and the two collided in an electric reunion. He “washed my face with kisses,” Laurie said.
As the afternoon progressed, Laurie opened up about her life to Sargent Campbell. She was a convicted murderer who’d been handed young Pax to train just three weeks after the death of her father. The dog impacted her, too.
Joyce Dopkeen / The New York Times
Training Pax helped her mourn the loss of her dad, but surprisingly, the dog helped her in a way very similar to the Sargent. “I too had P.T.S.D.,” she said, “after years of domestic violence. I too had flashbacks. Pax knew.” She continued…
Pax “let me know I wasn’t there—I was here,” she said. “I knew he would make someone feel safe. He made me feel a sense of freedom in a place I was supposed to feel anything but.” The dog, she said, patched pieces of her broken self.
“He gave me back pieces of myself that I forgot even existed,” Laurie said in a room with the other 27 women who train Puppies Behind Bars pooches. “She restored a piece of my soul.”
For the remainder of the visit, Laurie took Sargent Campbell on a walk through her memories of a dog who changed her just as he changed him. She even showed him Pax’s old water bowl, which she’d cherished in her cell.
At the end of the visit, Laurie was elated at having seen her old friend, Pax. “I never thought I’d see him again,” she said. “If they opened the doors and let me out of prison, I wouldn’t feel this good.” That’s high praise for a good boy!
OWN / YouTube
Sargent Campbell echoed that loved for Pax. “He’s my friend,” said the military veteran. “I call him ‘my buddy.'” That buddy of his allowed two opposites to bond in a beautiful way.
Not every animal can be easily trained, and the sad truth is, some folks write these dogs off as disasters, or ‘unadoptable’ — not fit for life with a family. But it takes just one person like Laurie to see an animal’s potential and change everything.
In 2011, a certified dog trainer in Rhode Island saw goodness in a dog some families deemed ‘un-adoptable,’ so she stuck her neck out for the pooch. She didn’t expect that, years later, her efforts would pay off in an unbelievable way…
By the time she was one, the adorable pup Ruby proved to be an absolute nightmare for pet owners. She lashed out at children with teeth and claws, and chased any other animal she shared a home with.
Four different families tried to make it work with Ruby. These families tried making the dog part of their permanent family. But nevertheless, each family gave her back to an animal shelter in East Providence, Rhode Island.
“She did not have an off switch,” said dog trainer Patricia Inman working with the East Providence shelter of the Rhode Island Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. “She was too much dog for most families.”
After four stints in the animal shelter, workers faced what they thought was the unchangeable truth: this dog was unadoptable. They penciled her in to be euthanized. But Patricia, who saw good in the dog, was determined to save her.
In a last-ditch effort, Patricia contacted the Rhode Island State Police, hoping the boys and girls in blue could train Ruby better, maybe let her join the k9 Unit. Just two hours before Ruby was to be put down, the police responded to her request.
The police saved Ruby from death! The department assigned her to Trooper Daniel O’Neil, a seven-year veteran on the force who dreamed of working with K-9 units. Right away, Officer O’Neil went to work training his new partner.
He recalled the first day he brought Ruby home, where his pregnant wife, infant son, and pet dog lived. She was as Patricia described, the officer recalled, “just crazy. Just bouncing off the walls.” Would he be able to calm the aggressive pooch?
Mischief Managed / YouTube
For four months, Officer O’Neil never let Ruby out of his sight. They ran together, slept together, watched TV together. He brought her to work. “The dog has to really love you to work for you,” he said. Still, Ruby pained him.
“Sometimes,” Officer O’Neil said, “I’d look at other members of the K9 unit with their respective high-priced canines that were bred for police work and say, ‘How did I get this monster?'” Training the dog wore him down.
After a four-month long training montage — in which Ruby and the officer became friends — the once unadoptable canine earned a police badge and began accompanying Officer O’Neil on a handful of missions…with impressive results.
Over six years, Ruby, the dog once lost in life, developed a knack for sniffing out lost persons with astounding success rates. And eventually, word of her tracking prowess spread around the precinct. That earned her and Officer O’Neil a special case.
In October 2017, Glocester, Rhode Island officers asked Ruby and Officer O’Neil for their expertise. See, they’d been searching for a missing teenage boy for over 36 hours with no results. They needed some pros on the case. They needed Ruby and Officer O’Neil.
Of course, Officer O’Neil and Ruby accepted the case. The partners first paid a visit to the missing teenager’s mother in her home, who told the officer that her son and his friends enjoyed hiking in a nearby wooded area. So they went there.
Officer O’Neil recalled the search. “We were a mile and a half into the woods,” he said, “when Ruby all of a sudden quickly darted away.” He must have groaned. Had his pooch reverted to her old uncontrollable, high-energy ways?
But when he caught up to Ruby, he found her licking something — a log? No, a boy laying in the leaves. Officer O’Neil saw right away it was the teen they’d been sent to find, but a bad cut marred his forehead and only the tiniest pulse proved life…
Officer O’Neil radioed for medical attention, but they couldn’t find Ruby and the officer in the forest. With the boy just barely clinging to life, the officer gave his partner a simple command: bark. So she did, loudly, again and again.
Medics followed the sound of Ruby’s bark and went to work saving the boy. In the professional’s hands, he’d be all right. Relieved, the officer rewarded Ruby with a pet on the head. They’d done it together. They’d cracked the tough case.
Officer O’Neil returned to the teenager’s mother’s house and told her the good news. Now it was her turn to be relieved — she cried on the doorstep. And then, through tear-soaked cheeks, she asked the officer a strange question: “Do you know a dog named Ruby?”
“I was taken aback” by the mother’s question, Officer O’Neil recalled. “I said, ‘Er, yes. Ruby is my K9 partner who just found your boy.'” Again, the mother broke down in tears. Her name, you see, was Patricia Inman.
In the end, Ruby repaid the woman who saved her from death all those years before. A life for a life — it was the least she could do. As the months passed, Ruby built on her training, and the Rhode Island authorities noticed.
In 2018, Ruby was nominated for 2018 American Humane Hero Dog Award. Rhode Island Governor Gina Raimondo called her a “top dog” and a “hero.” Not bad for a dog once deemed unadoptable!
Rhode Island State Police / Facebook