A new docuseries premiering on A&E Tuesday night will offer viewers a lens into the struggles some veterans face when they return from the battlefield with post-traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injury — debilitating disabilities that profoundly impact their lives.
“Dogs of War” will surround husband and wife duo Jim and Lindsey Stanek, founders of Paws and Stripes, an organization that pairs veterans with service dogs that guide them through their post-battlefield struggles.
Jim, who has personal experience with war wounds, was injured during his third tour in Iraq, leading to nine months of treatment at Brook Army Medical Center in San Antonio, Texas.
“I broke my arm and … was diagnosed with PTSD and a brain injury, walking around like a zombie in ‘The Walking Dead,'” Jim recently told TheBlaze. “I was isolating myself. I didn’t want to socialize with people … I couldn’t remember things.”
It was at that point that Jim realized that therapy dogs were immensely helpful to him, though he and Lindsey quickly discovered how expensive and difficult they are to obtain.
“I bumped into a therapy dog at the hospital, which is different that a service dog, so once we got out the search began. Lindsey spearheaded trying to find a way to get me a service dog,” he said. “It’s just ridiculously expensive. She just got tired.”
After experiencing roadblocks, the couple decided to launch Paws and Stripes in an effort to help other veterans going through similar struggles. Now, they are working to connect unwanted, shelter dogs with veterans in need.
According to Lindsey, Paws and Stripes works to find the right service dog for each individual case, focusing mainly on PTSD and TBI, which she described as “invisible disabilities.”
Through Paws and Stripes, Lindsey said that veterans are able to “get out and do those things they never thought they would be able to do,” as they join in the process of helping train their service dogs alongside professionals through a unique program.
“We see an entirely different veteran who graduates the program,” she added.
While some dogs provide medical alerts for veterans, letting them know if they are about to have a panic attack in public, others simply help create a feeling of safety.
Then there are other canines that assist with actions like mobility assistance, retrieving items and opening doors.
“We might [even] have someone who has diabetes and needs an alert for their blood sugar,” Lindsey explained.
After their work with veterans and canines began to capture some attention, Jim said that he and his wife were approached by a production company and asked if they’d be willing to tell their story — and they agreed.
Now, viewers will have a chance to see what they do firsthand through A&E’s “Dogs of War.“
“We looked at it as an opportunity to spread awareness and to try to change the stigma of PTSD and TBI … and to show how these rescue dogs — how amazing they are and how amazing they work with veterans,” Jim told TheBlaze.
The couple hope that the show helps the public better understand the issues that veterans face when they leave the battlefield.
“For me, being a vet with PTSD, I’ve been called a ‘crazy war vet’ or that ‘I’m not all there,'” Jim said. “One of my biggest things … we’re not crazy. We’re normal for what we have been through. I think that is truly one of the most important things for this country to understand.”
He also said that he hopes veterans suffering will realize that they cannot let PTSD and TBI overtake their lives, while also letting the public know what dogs go through while trapped in the shelter system — and the good that they can do when properly paired with suffering veterans.
“This is a docuseries. What you see is what is actually going on,” he said. “I really want to give the credit to the veterans that we had the honor of filming with. They’re telling the hard story. You’re getting a glimpse into the veteran and the family of what it’s like to live with this.”
“Dogs of War” premieres Tuesday night at 10 p.m. ET on A&E and will then move to Sundays in the same time slot starting November 16.