A year after PTSD service dog bolts during fireworks, veteran has warning for pet owners

SHELBY, NC (WBTV) - Tuesday evening, countless Americans will head to a fireworks show or light up some of their own in the back yard. But before they do, a Shelby veteran has a warning he hopes all pet owners will listen to.

Last year, David Dowell's service dog, Milka, ran off during a fireworks display in Dallas.

"For probably about ten days or so, there was just nothing. We couldn't pick up anything," he said.

Dowell searched and searched for his lifeline. He's an Iraq War veteran and Milka soothed his PTSD. Somehow, the pair was reunited nearly a month after she disappeared.

He admits she's changed.

"Before she went missing it was, 'I gotta watch out for dad,'" he said.

Dowell has had to retire Milka as his service dog. He says she's not as steady as she once was. Loud noises like fireworks make her nervous, sounds that have the same effect on her owner.

"I'm more worried about her than how I feel. Now we're kind of on the same side of the line. It's me telling her she's OK," he said.

Dowell says he used to wish others wouldn't use fireworks because of the dark places his mind go to when hearing them. But his mindset has changed.

"I did what I did, so you can do what you want to do. My neighbors having that freedom is more important to me than making sure that I'm alright for one night in the year," he said.

Tuesday night, Dowell and Milka will be inside. He wants others to enjoy the festivities, but he hopes people leave their animals safe at home and inside.

"You just never know what's going to be going through your dog's mind at that moment. They can't speak to you, so don't take them out," he said.

To get the word out about a lost dog, visit facebook.com/LostFoundDogs.NC/.

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