After multiple suicide attempts, man’s best friend gives veteran a brighter future

Marine Corps Veteran Mike Ronan sits with his dog, Julie, who helps him deal with the effects of PTSD. (Photo Credit: Drew Moore/WEYI)

GRAND BLANC, Mich. - United States Marine Corps Veteran Mike Ronan returned from combat overseas in 2014. He was diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, and struggled to readjust to a more relaxed civilian life. Ronan says even the smallest tasks would seem impossible to do.

“When I would look at my toothbrush and be overwhelmed just brushing my teeth. It was so terrible I would sit on the floor crying,” Ronan says.

Ronan’s struggles only got worse. He struggled to sleep more than eight hours a week. Couldn’t be in crowded places, and decided to end it all.

“I thought about suicide on a daily basis. I remember driving down the interstate and had enough. I took my hands off the wheel, veered into oncoming traffic, closed my eyes, and waited for it to be over,” Ronan says.

Miraculously his car made it all the way across the road, and ended up in a ditch. Ronan suffered no injuries.

“That actually made me more depressed that I couldn’t even kill myself, so a couple weeks later I tried again,” Ronan says.

Help was slowly coming for the Marine who had fallen into a very dark place. It would come in the form of four paws with a lot of fur. His savior, as he says it, is named ‘Julie’ a German Shepherd. The dog was donated by a group called Guardian Angels Medical Service Dogs based out of Florida, with a branch in Michigan. Jolanthe Bassett helps connect veterans and first responders with the service dogs. Bassett reached out to Ronan to offer him the help.

“These dogs going through 1,500 to 2,000 hours of training. They specialize in veterans with PTSD, or with physical limitations. And each year we receive more than ten-thousand requests for one of these animals.

The impact the medical dogs have had since the program started in 2010 is remarkable.

“Each day in this country we lose between 20 and 22 veterans to suicide. Our group has provided 180 recipients dogs, and not a single one of them have committed suicide. We also haven’t had any of them get divorced,” Bassett explains.

Within two days Ronan did something he hadn’t done in years. Slept for nearly two days straight without any nightmares. His panic attacks dropped from 20 a day, down to one, and the tooth brush is no longer a problem. Progress he credits to the new woman in his life, Julie.

“She’s literally my life. This is the first time since I was a kid that I’m in a great place, and I’m really looking forward to the future,” Ronan says.

Each dog costs approximately $22,000. If you would like to find out more about Guardian Angels Medical Service Dogs, click here.

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