The bond between a soldier and a military working dog, or “battle buddy” as they are affectionately called, is unlike any other.
The importance of these dogs goes far beyond the battlefield, often times helping with the healing process of a soldier suffering from PTSD.
Such was the case for Jeff DeYoung and his battle buddy, Cena.
The relationship between Jeff and Cena began in 2009 when a then 19-year-old Jeff went for training in Afghanistan. They spent the next year on the front line in Afghanistan, where Jeff experienced many horrific events, including the deaths of many of his fellow Marines.
In a story that he shared with the American Humane Association, Jeff recalls:
“During all of this, Cena was there for the crying and the nightmares and even the suicide attempt.”
Unfortunately, Jeff returned to America without getting the chance to say goodbye.
And upon his return he suffered from severe PTSD.
In an exclusive interview with Liftbump, American Humane Association President and CEO Dr. Robin Ganzert explained:
“He has three babies and he couldn’t stay in the house when the babies were crying [because of an unfortunate experience in Afghanistan]… his PTS was so bad he couldn’t be a dad to his children.”
During that time, he so badly needed his battle buddy, the one who had been there with him and who would understand what he was going through.
“He was suffering from so much PTS that he had to find a Pets Mart an hour and a half away to find a black lab that reminded him of his battle buddy Cena,” Ganzert told us.
Over the next four years he battled alcoholism, depression, and a prescription drug dependency— a period in his life that he described as “[his] hell.”
But on June 5, 2014, with the help of the American Humane Association, Cena — Jeff’s dog, savior, brother — was finally returned to him.
And now a year later eighty percent of Jeff’s PTSD symptoms are gone without medication, “eighty percent are gone because he has his battle buddy back.”
“The babies have their daddy and they have a beautiful black lab who happens to be a hero just like their daddy,” said Ganzert.
As for Cena? Ganzert says he’s on fire— he’s acting like more like a puppy than a seven-year-old.