Puppy with a Purpose: Maverick helps local veteran cope with PTSD

McCRACKEN COUNTY, KY — Local 6 Today’s Puppy with a Purpose is one step closer to becoming a certified service dog after passing the Canine Good Citizen test earlier this month.

For most dogs, typical obedience training needed to pass the test takes about eight weeks to master. But Maverick is getting it done in about half that time.

Maverick may be a puppy but he’s a quick learner, and he’s making a big impact on the family of local military veteran Kevin Patterson who’s living with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

“Kind of bonded to the point where he can kind of read me,” says Kevin. “If I’m not having a good day, he kind of gets a little closer and nuzzles up to me a little more.”

Kevin has had Maverick for about two months now. Once a week, they stop by Stonecreek Kennels to train with Brent Talbert who’s preparing Maverick for the challenges ahead.

“It feels good to play that small role you know in fulfilling his purpose, which I feel like is much bigger than mine,” says Talbert. “I have kind of a special place in my heart for people that have served our country and to give back to them when so many people often don’t.”

Kevin joined the Army during his senior year of high school. A little later he was sent to serve in the Iraq war leaving behind his wife, Jackie Patterson.

“He’s never opened up even to me about his time over there across seas and what he’s seen and what he had to do, things he had to be a part of that he didn’t want to be a part of,” says Jackie. “I know that’s weighed on him for a long time. It was hard to get him to understand that I saw there was something there that he didn’t want to own up.”

Something Jackie says that Kevin didn’t want to accept.

“We’re trained in the military to be tough to be able to mentally handle the things that we’re going to see when we’re deployed and when we get back it- it’s hard for you to admit that you need help,” says Kevin.

Jackie says Kevin was deployed not long after they got married. “When he left and came home, it was two different people and it’s been that different person for the better part of 15 years,” she says. “It did make times very hard for us. There was a point in time when I didn’t know if our marriage would survive and now it’s thriving.”

Kevin is reborn — becoming the man Jackie fell in love with in high school and she says it’s all because of Maverick. “He calms a lot of Kevin’s anxiety and brings out a really good side in him that I never thought I would see again,” says Jackie.

It’s not that Kevin’s PTSD is gone, it’s just now he knows how to get through it and that’s with Maverick.

Just recently Kevin says he was triggered while watching television. “Maverick was actually sitting in front of my recliner when it happened and decided that right then was a good time to hop into my lap and be a lap dog,” says Kevin. “So it was kind of good timing on his part so it kind of helped recenter me and reground me and get my attention back on him.”

“Just knowing that he can- even though Maverick obviously cannot talk but he can just let Maverick know what he’s feeling and what he’s going through and then maybe he’ll open up to me and talk about it later or maybe not but at least he’s got an outlet,” says Jackie.

Kevin says since having Maverick, he’s been a lot happier. “To be honest I would think I would venture to say I am a cheerier person,” says Kevin. “A little bit more upbeat just having him. He’s just a big puppy.”

Talbert says Stonecreek Kennels is expecting a new litter of puppies later this summer. He says they’re planning on training them to become service dogs with the goal of helping another local veteran.