‘Service Paws for Patriots’ present service dog to Utah veteran

SOUTH SALT LAKE, Utah -- A local veteran who struggles from post-traumatic stress disorder says she is about to get another chance at life.

Army veteran Christine McKoon was injured in Iraq in 2006. She said her life started to fall apart.

On Friday, in South Salt Lake, a first-of-its-kind campaign called “Service Paws for Patriots” selected McKoon to receive a specially-trained service dog for a companion.

The service animal is a two-year-old Goldendoodle named Tink. Tink has been trained by the Utah-based Malinois Foundation to provide psychiatric and mobility help for Christine.

“Just her being here and petting her helps me be calm; if she wasn't here right now, even though we just met, I wouldn't be able to talk to you,” explained McKoon as she petted her new four-legged companion.

McKoon said her PTSD can keep her from being social.

“Being around people I start to get anxious, that leads to headaches and the headaches cause me to become angry and I have to go home and I have to stay there for sometimes days without leaving the house, period,” described McKoon. “Every time I leave the house right now, my skin starts to tingle, my heart starts to beat faster, I start getting small headaches and it gets worse the more people I am around.”

Tink is trained to make her life easier. This is not McKoon’s first service dog, though.

“I had a service dog for a while – she ended up getting ill and injured so we couldn’t go anywhere and my life pretty much ended," she said. "I could only go to my specific gym because I know the people there. Tink is going to help me become a human being again and help me get back out into society.”

It cost the Utah Malinois Foundation $20,000 to train Tink. Community members donated funds, including Mark Miller Subaru, Veterans First Mortgage, Central Valley Water Reclamation, and Security Service Federal Credit Union.

Members of the Service Paws for Patriots campaign include: South Salt Lake City Mayor Cherie Wood and Chamber President Gary Birdsall.

To donate to the Malinois Foundation, click here.