NORFOLK, Va. - Marcus Bullock and Zander are inseparable.
“Every time I say good job it’s basically a positive reward. So, he is listening to me. He is obeying orders,” Bullock said.
K9s for Warriors matched Zander with Bullock to help him manage PTSD.
“He’s given me hope to say the least,” Bullock said.
That’s made their bond unbreakable.
“That verbal command, Yes. That high pitch in it means I did good, dad says I’m doing good” Bullock said.
Marcus served for eight years in the marine corp. Deployed to Iraq several times. He came home with the kind of wounds you can’t see. Depression. Anxiety. Now with each command one and half year-old, Zander learns about the world around him, and that’s helping Marcus re-learn how to live in it, too.
“My lap. The command is my lap. Usually, I love up on him. Hey, yes. It can go for however long, five, ten minutes. I just love up on him. Nobody else around me kind of even matters, I tune it out and we just have a moment of love,” Bullock said.
Marcus says anxiety often sidelined him, making shopping in large crowds impossible. That’s why the holidays can be tough for service members with PTSD.
If you’re out holiday shopping and see a handler with their service dog, don’t speak to or distract the dog. Speak directly to the handler at a comfortable distance. Ask the handler if it would be okay to pet the dog. Know that it may not be a good time for the handler or the service dog and they may say no. If they do say yes, wait for them to signal to you that it is okay.
It all helps Marcus feel normal again.
“I don’t make friends with everybody, but Zander tends to love of people out there. It’s a great thing that he gets me out its positive, I think it’s changed my life a lot,” Bullock said.
Bullock says his goal is to help other struggling veterans get a new lease on life through the K9's for Warriors program in the Hampton Roads area.
K9s For Warriors is the nation’s largest provider of service dogs to military veterans suffering from Post-traumatic Stress Disability, traumatic brain injury and/or military sexual trauma as a result of military service post-9/11.
The program says every warrior that walks through the door is family. They provide them with a service canine, equipment, training, certification, seminars, legal instruction, vet care, housing, home cooked meals, unconditional love and listening, and life-time of wrap-around services (including available life-long healthcare and food for their dogs).
The K9s program is 100% free for the veteran.
Bullock says he credits both K9's for Warriors and the Semper Fi Fund with his success.
The Norfolk Outlets is one of many places across Hampton Roads that caters to service members and is also pet-friendly.
Not only are there designated locations for pets and service dogs but the outlets offer special discounts in various stores to military members.