RICHLAND COUNTY, SC (WIS) - When Willie D. Roberts saw the photo of former President George H.W. Bush’s service dog, Sully, lying by the late president’s casket, he was moved.
“I can’t explain the bond we have,” the retired soldier said.
Roberts served in the US Army for more than 20 years. After multiple tours in the Middle East, he realized something wasn’t right.
“I didn’t know what was going to happen to me," Roberts said. "Me and that place. I can’t explain.”
He said it was a lonely and trying time.
“I didn’t do anything," he explained. "I really didn’t. I had my life as a First Sergeant and that was it. Nothing else outside of that.”
He began volunteering with Palmetto Animal Assisted Living Services (PAALS) in Columbia, which is a non-profit that trains service dogs. Not long after, he met RC. He said life would’ve been very different without her.
“You would’ve been talking about me, not with me,” he said.
RC and Roberts were teamed up to help with Roberts' PTSD. They’ve been together for seven years. He said it’s tough imagining life without her but knows there will never be broken.
“Without a doubt," Roberts said. "She’s my friend and I love her. Without a doubt.”
RC is one of the dozens of dogs PAALS has paired up with people.
“You have to rely on each other for the basic things you need in life. But also the joyful things,” PAALS Executive Director and Founder Jennifer Rogers said.
A 1-year-old named Sully is training to become a service dog at PAALS. He hopes to follow in the paw prints of former President George H.W. Bush’s dog, who is also named Sully.
Rogers said these service dogs will do a lot.
“They’ll open doors," Rogers said. "They’ll turn on lights. They’ll hit emergency buttons when somebody falls and becomes unconscious.”
Sully can also become a four-legged walking acupuncturist like RC.
“I owe it to her to be the best, best friend for her,” Roberts said.
PAALS will be holding their annual graduation ceremony on Sunday, December 9, 2018. It starts at 3:30 pm and will be held at 300 Senate Street in downtown Columbia, SC. The public is invited to attend this free event.
PAALS is also always looking for volunteers. You can find more information on their website.