When Albert Maddox first stepped into the small room to meet his possible service dog, Khloe, he found her backed into a corner.
The Labrador-malamute-pit -bull mix had been through a traumatic experience and wasn’t feeling up to being social. She didn’t know Maddox and couldn’t trust him right away.
Maddox knew the feeling well. He, too, was managing stress after serving a tour in Iraq.
Maddox wasn’t sure whether a service dog would be any help but agreed to meet one. He didn’t approach Khloe, and so it was up to her to decide if she would be his counselor.
After several minutes, she slowly approached Maddox and sniffed.
“There was a small ball nearby, and she picked it up and brought it over, dropped it, and with her nose, pushed it toward me,” Maddox, 54, said. “Technically, she chose me.”
Maddox is a retired U.S. Army veteran who has lived in Victoria with his wife and 13-year-old daughter for a little more than a year. Maddox spent 20 years in the Army and was in the Army National Guard in Oregon for several years.
He deployed to Iraq in 2010 for Operation New Dawn and was there for about a year, he said. In his deployment, he worked as a hammock wrecker and convoy support. When Maddox returned from deployment, he had a hard time adjusting to civilian life, he said. Maddox didn’t feel comfortable in social settings, and the sounds of everyday life became stressful and unsettling.
“I couldn’t go to the grocery store during the daytime because there were too many people. I couldn’t do it,” he said as Khloe lay in front of him. “The roars – the sounds that cars make when people are hot-rodding – it had me hitting the ground, because it took me back to my time in Iraq.”
Post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD, is something many veterans face when they return from a conflict, said Andy Rosalez, a member of the VFW Post 4146.
“No matter how old you are or what conflict you’ve been in – the story is different, but the ending can be the same,” Rosalez said.
Maddox sought help through counseling, and it was his psychiatrist in Oregon who suggested that Maddox look into having a service dog.
Through Battle Buddies of Central Oregon, Maddox met Khloe, a certified therapy dog. Khloe was shy at first, he said, because she had never been around men before.
Prior to being paired up with Maddox, she had spent several months with a former owner, who was homeless.
Though Khloe is Maddox’s service dog, Maddox said she has a special gift of knowing when someone needs comforting. One time, he said, Khloe comforted a little girl who had cancer. He’s had Khloe for about five years. She goes with Maddox to the grocery store, restaurants and almost anywhere Maddox needs her.
“She’s special. She really is,” Maddox said as he stroked Khloe behind her ears. “She’s always on the lookout. She lets me know if someone is near me or behind me. She has my back, and I have hers.”
Since being in Victoria, Maddox has joined the VFW Post 4146. He is grateful for veteran organizations such as the VFW Post 4146 because they help both veterans and the families of veterans. For Maddox, Veterans Day is not just about those who served, but also the families of veterans he said. Maddox’s father, the late Donald Maddox, served in the Army for 23 years.
“The soldier goes through a lot when they’re serving, but the family goes through a lot, too,” he said. “I feel like the families of veterans should be recognized, too.”
Veterans Day is almost like having another birthday, he said, except on a larger scale. The whole community is involved, and more family – other veterans – are able to celebrate the holiday together. Having that bond with other veterans is a special camaraderie, he said.
“The day brings us veterans so much joy, to see people in the community involved,” he said. “Meeting with other veterans brings back the good memories.”