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May 22, 2015 07:30 PM

“There’s things I remember. There’s things I don’t remember,” Mike Gervell told the Alaska Dispatch News. “There’s things I remember that I don’t want to remember.”

Gervell, who joined the Navy in 1967 at the age of 17, served aboard the USS Hull, a destroyer that repeatedly came under fire during his two tours of duty in the Vietnam War. After being honorably discharged at the age of 20, Gervell has since struggled with traumatic brain injury, coronary artery disease, anxiety, depression and post-traumatic stress disorder, finding little relief until this February, 45 years later.

That’s when he met Mikey, a border collie-terrier mix.

Gervell decided to call Midnight Sun Service Dogs, a volunteer group that specializes in matching service dogs with veterans suffering from PTSD, on a whim. April Gettys, the organization’s founder, matched the veteran with Mikey, and in just two and half months, the shifts in Gervell’s personality and well-being have been tremendous.

“I don’t know how he found out about the problems I got, but he sure knows a lot,” Gervell told the ADN about Mikey’s ability to wordlessly understand the anxiety and terror that follows him in his day-to-day life. “Probably more than doctors do.”

Before the arrival of his new friend, Gervell rarely left his house, save for drive-thru visits and grocery runs in the middle of the night to avoid crowds. Now, Mikey accompanies Gervell on supermarket trips, doctors appointments and little excursions – he’s even begun letting the dog sleep in his bed. Once, when he was suffering from a nightmare about Vietnam, Mikey woke him up. Gervell got up to take his medication and slipped back into bed, as Mikey stayed alert and pressed close to him until he fell back asleep.

“He was there, watching me,” Gervell said. “Making sure it’s not going to happen again.”

To make a donation to Midnight Sun Service Dogs, which matches service, therapy and companion dogs to people with special needs (especially wounded veterans), visit the website here.

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