Service dog ‘everything’ for owner after serious car wreck

Rebecca Johnson and her service dog, Zeus.

Zeus’ specialized training allows him to comfort

For Rebecca Johnson, her service dog Zeus came into her life when she needed him most, and she says each day, he’s a hero to her in his own way.

“Without him, I wouldn’t have the confidence to live life like a normal person,” Johnson said.

After separating from her husband, Johnson moved from New Jersey to Luling in 2017, and it was there she and Zeus bonded, each rescuing the other in their own way.

For Johnson, the need for a service dog arose after she was involved in a serious car wreck in 2014. That wreck resulted in PTSD that rendered her unable to drive a car without a service dog and thus unable to do many of the things that most take for granted in day-to-day life.

Zeus, who has been trained since he was 12 weeks old to be a PTSD and medical alert service dog, is able to provide Johnson comfort and curb her anxiety in many situations, and he has enabled her to get back behind the wheel.

“He’s able to behave in such a way that he redirects me and gives me the confidence to know it’s OK to be in those situations,” Johnson said. “He just knows how to give me a little nudge when he can sense I’m nervous or that those feelings are coming up. He refocuses my attention on him and not my anxiety.”

“Without him, I wouldn’t have the confidence to live life like a normal person.”- Rebecca Johnson

Zeus, meanwhile, came from a bad situation early in his life. Johnson said the home he was previously in was “a mess” and full of fleas, which covered Zeus. She adopted him and upon moving to Luling, took him with her.

He also deals with chronic pain — at 17 weeks, he was diagnosed with Panosteitis of the long bones in his forearms and Hypertrophic Osteodystrophy of the hips. Both are types of bone growing diseases that create very painful inflammation of the bones. It could have cost Zeus the opportunity to be groomed into a service dog, but he was allowed to continue his training as long as it consists of lower impact activities, as he will get past the pain but only once he’s fully grown.

Zeus is not Johnson’s first service dog, but he is the one she’s bonded closest with.

“Ivan (the first service dog she worked with) was my husband’s dog and stayed with him when we separated,” Johnson said. “I think Zeus and I clicked much better and faster. It was hard at first because there was another service dog who was my heart and soul, but it happened quickly.

“Zeus is a fast learner and always has been, and with him having his own medical issues, I can empathize and he always has been able to sense mine. So I guess in that regard we bonded. We’ve always had a lot in common.”

And each has provided the other a new lease on life.

Service Dogs

  • A service dog refers to any type of assistance dog specifically trained to help people with disabilities, such as visual impairment, hearing impairments, mental disorders (such as post traumatic stress disorder), seizures, mobility impairment and diabetes.
  • Desirable character traits in service animals typically include good temperament or psychological make-up (such as trainability) and good health (including physical structure and stamina).
  • Although dogs of almost any breed or mix of breeds may be capable of becoming a service dog, very few dogs have the requisite health and temperament qualities.
  • In the United States, approximately 500,000 service dogs are helping people.

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