Julia and Leo

Julia spent 15 years in the Women’s Royal Army Corp and 18 years in HM Prison Service.  After serving this time, Julia found herself in a dark place and unable to talk about all the things she had witnessed over the years. 


Life wasn’t good for Julia, leaving home became increasingly terrifying and she only felt safe to leave the house if she had her partner, Terry, with her. Staying home without him wasn’t much fun either, she would spend her days sitting by the window waiting for him to come home. 


Julia felt that life was not worth living this way and attempted multiple suicide attempts. She was then admitted to a psychiatric hospital. She lost everything; her job of 18 years was gone. She was eventually diagnosed with PTSD, depression, and mixed anxiety. 


Julia had great support from Terry, as well as her family and friends, who encouraged her to get a dog. Julia had not long lost her rescue dog, which she thought may have added to her diagnosis but the thought of having gotten another dog meant Julia would have to leave the house, so that was not an option. 


I spent hours on my laptop & something led me to find Veterans with Dogs! I showed Terry who encouraged me to phone them up, we chatted, they told me they would support me taking one step at a time. 


I attended an introduction day down in Devon, I met Craig and the fantastic team that have supported me! I just knew then that this was something I could do.  


I'd already filled in the paperwork so that went in the post as soon as I got home. I had a home visit from Craig & Julie. But when I received a letter that I had been excepted by Veterans with Dogs!! The best medicine ever! 

I'd asked VWD'S to match me with their dogs rather than find my own and then, in January 2018 after waiting18 months, I met Leo and gosh he was bouncy! 



Craig (founder of VWD) stayed local to Julia and Leo and was only a phone call away if Julia needed him. They walked Leo around Julia’s village, something she had not done in years, it was daunting, but she knew deep down she could do it with Leo by her side. 


Craig told me Leo was a bit of a mud monster and over the next few months Leo lived up to his name, jumping in water, the muddier the better! 



Leo is absolutely amazing, he is by my side 24/7, he knows when I am getting anxious and nudges me which makes me aware of how I am feeling so I can get myself out of that situation. He gently wakes me from nightmares and will stay by my side until I am relaxed or have fallen back to sleep. Whilst I am sat down, Leo will back himself into me so I can rub his back which keeps me calm, these are all things that Leo has taught himself, he is certainly a clever boy. 


Since the day when I first picked up the phone, met the amazing VWD team and then Leo, I am getting my life back. My anxiety attacks and nightmares are reducing. 


Visiting VWD is like visiting family, the welcome you receive is so lovely, everyone is so relaxed that becoming anxious just doesn't happen. 


In September 2020, Julia and Leo passed their Pals 3 and Leo became a fully qualified assistant dog. The duo now has annual assessments to ensure they are working together as a team.


I would not change anything in my life right now and picking up the phone to dial Veterans With Dogs was the best decision I have ever made, had I not called them, I doubt if I would be around right now! 



Would you like to help us make a huge difference to Veterans with mental health difficulties resulting from military service? Click here to find out how you can get involved. 


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