They say a dog is a man's best friend, and for one Army veteran, truer words couldn't be spoken.
Retired Staff Sgt. Randall Dexter had been a witness to several harrowing ordeals during the course of his service. He served in Iraq twice, where in 2015 he saw his crew be hit with an improvised explosive device (IED).
Despite being a medic, Dexter was unable to save his fallen comrades, which led to his diagnosis of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
"Three Iraqi civilians were severely injured," Dexter said. "One of [them] had a mortal wound to his head."
Things wouldn't immediately improve for Dexter, as he suffered a traumatic head injury following a flag football game.
Dexter began taking 14 medications per day, which included sleep medications, antidepressants, migraine medications, anti-anxiety medications, and injections for a blood clot.
"It was brutal," he told TODAY. "I was contemplating suicide and was a hot mess."
"I was a walking zombie because the medications kept me physically drained and very hazy mentally," he also shared with The Epoch Times.
Thankfully, Dexter would never succumb to his suicidal thoughts after he was introduced to his new best friend.
The following year, the army veteran heard about the nonprofit program, Paws’itive Teams, which trains service and therapy dogs in San Diego County to "work with people like Dexter."
Dexter was first assigned an eight-year-old dog named Ricochet - a certified therapy dog who’s worked with more than 50 veterans - for six weeks to determine if he would be a good fit for the program. During that period Dexter said he learned a lot about trust, which has helped him overcome several barriers he was facing in his life.
"The minute Ricochet came up to me, my wife — who’s also my caregiver — noticed a big change in me," Dexter said. "Ricochet has this amazing softness in her eyes. It was definitely a turning point when I met her."
Ricochet's owner, Judy Fridono, said she has dubbed the beloved pooch a “SURFice” dog, because Ricochet often surfs as an assisted aid for his revolving handlers.
Dexter decided to see Ricochet's skills for himself and decided to try surfing for the first time ever. Of course, he was impressed.
He said: "She gave me freedom and gave me my life back," he said. "If you love surfing and you love dogs like I do, it was the perfect match!" the father-of-three shared.
According to Fridono, Ricochet is also trained to notice psychological triggers for her handlers.
“She’s trained to ‘alert’ to anxiety or pain in others and to eminent danger," she said. "Once they both were in a big-box store and she suddenly stopped and planted all four paws. She wouldn’t let him move.”
Eventually, Dexter and Fridono were able to raise enough money for his own canine companion named Captain, who has been a constant source of support to his owner.
Since then, Dexter graduated from San Diego Miramar College, is hosting his own radio show in Nevada, and volunteers with the program that changed his life.
Has an animal ever changed your life?