I remember hearing, “There’s going to be an ambush.” US Marine, Corporal Dan Lasko, was on a tour overseas when his vehicle went down into a canon. He was on top of a .50 Cal machine gun. He heard a big explosion and says that, “from there it was slow motion- like you see in the movies." Thus began his nightmare. His parents told him that when their phone rang at 2AM in the morning, they knew something wasn’t right. His parents called his fiancé. She asked, “Is everything ok?” Dan told her that he was ok…alive.
Dan’s left leg had to be amputated. He had to endure intensive physical therapy. He was awarded the Purple Heart. But Dan recalls that he did not come back the same as the way he had left. He didn’t want to go to crowded places. Loud noises, fireworks, and anything that could remind me of that day that he was in a war zone, gave him anxiety. He was always looking over his should fearing that something was going to happen. Dan went to the Veteran Affairs (VA) and they told him he suffered from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PSTD)
Then something happened that would change the course of Dan’s life. America’s VetDogs delivered Wally. VetDogs has been around since 2003. Their dog programs include Guide Dogs, Service Dogs, Military Facility Dogs, and the Prison Puppy Program. A Military Therapy Dog refers to a dog trained to provide physical and emotional therapy to wounded soldiers, as well as active duty personnel in military installations.
When the VET Dogs van pulled up to Dan there were 2 dogs. They asked, “Which one do you think is yours?” Dan thought it was the dog laying down that looked chill and relaxed. He was wrong. Instead, the other dog, named Wally, jumped up and started licking him knocking him over. Having Wally around, Dan says, helped with the healing process.
Dan suffers from migraines and Wally will just be there with him- in the dark, in the quiet- if that’s what he needs to do. Wally was the missing piece, physically and mentally. He allowed him to engage in society again.
Wally makes Dan feel comfortable in crowded places and lets him know that he’s not alone. Dan didn’t want to lie around missing his leg. He wanted to make the best of the situation. With Wally by his side Dad completed races, triathlons, and marathons. Wally and Dan go everywhere together. Wally was even in the hospital when his first son, Luke was born.
Dan says that Wally has taught him patience and loyalty. “He taught me how to be myself again. He’ll just look up at you with a look that says, “Everything’s going to be alright”.” To pay it forward, since Wally had taken care of him when he had gone through tough times, Dan rescued a dog named Maggie.
Maggie has been through tough times, too. Now, with Dan’s family, she has a good support system, “You’re with us we’re here to take care of you.” Maggie was rescued, much in the same way that Wally rescued Dan and gave him his life back.