CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (WVIR) - A Hampton Roads-area first responder with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is the first firefighter to receive a service dog through Service Dogs of Virginia. Now, he’s encouraging others to to seek help if they’re struggling.
“I just want everyone to know that it is OK to not be OK,” Chris Moore said.
Moore is a second-generation firefighter with 27 years of service.
“It’s a calling. It’s in your blood,” Moore said.
When he’s not putting out a fire, he’s battling his own struggles: “In 2017, I started having a lot of personal issues. I didn’t know what was going on. I was finally diagnosed with PTSD related to my career field,” Moore said.
After his diagnosis, Moore discovered Service Dogs of Virginia, an organization that places trained dogs with people who need more support.
“One of the main ways the dog can help is by reducing anxiety, which makes it really hard to function if you have high anxiety. The dogs are taught very gentle behaviors to reduce anxiety,” Service Dogs of Virginia Director of Development Sally Day said.
Day says Moore will be the first firefighter to be paired with a trained canine.
“We hope Chris’s bonding with Lewis continues, and Lewis is a huge asset to him as he moves forward with his life,” Day said.
Moore and Lewis have been already been training together for two weeks. The two will be off on their own for the first time side-by-side Thursday, August 6.
“I’ve actually turned into somewhat of a hermit and socially isolated myself. With him, he’s going to give me the confidence and the ability to start going out more and spending more time with family and friends,” Moore said.
Moore wants to be a voice to other first responders to let them know that it’s OK to ask for help.
“We’re losing more firefighters every year to suicide than we are in line of duty deaths. It needs to stop,” he said. “There are solutions out there. I’m living proof of it.”
Moore hopes to take Lewis with him next month to Dallas where he’ll be speaking to other first responders about his battle with PTSD.