San Antonio Army vet gets PTSD help from a little brindle pitbull puppy

When Rich and Alicia Scott first set eyes on Hesco, he was an 8-week-old puppy whose head seemed too big for his 9-pound body. He was “goofy and silly,” they recall, and “chasing his tail in circles” — and they knew instantly he was the dog they needed at that moment in their lives.

An Army veteran of 23 years, Rich was deployed in Afghanistan with special forces and did two tours of duty in Iraq.

“When I got home, I wasn’t in a good place,” he said. “I had PTSD and insomnia. I had few close friends to open up to. I started down the path of being the veteran who struggled to find a purpose.”

When he met his wife Alicia, he loved having her two dogs around. But when one of the dogs died, things got dark for Rich, Alicia said. “I didn’t realize how much Rich was using my dogs as emotional support pets at the time.”

Rich had always had dogs in his life, but he never had the chance to pick out one for his very own. The couple decided to adopt an adult dog to adopt that was good with kids and would get along with his mother-in-law’s cat.

For weeks, they visited area animal shelters and met many beautiful dogs. “But the ones we wanted didn’t fit our criteria for getting along with cats. It broke my heart each and every time we left one behind,” Rich said.

In July 2021, they opened up their search parameters to include puppies and asked an adoption counselor at the Animal Defense League for help. “They really listened to what we wanted,” Rich said. And when they met the puppy who would become Hesco, “we knew immediately he was the one,” he said.

Rich named the puppy Hesco for the Hesco barriers that protect soldiers from enemy gunfire and explosions. “Hesco protected me in Afghanistan. And now, every time I call his name, I’m reminded of how good I feel being protected when I need it.”

Now 10 months old, Hesco has become a comforting companion for Rich. “Hesco centers me,” he said. “In a world that is often harsh, a dog shows love. Hesco doesn’t judge me or criticize me. He comforts me. He brings me peace when I need it and joy when I don’t expect it. He just wants to be with me. I’m his best friend, and I couldn’t be more grateful. I’m a better person when I’m with a dog.”

For Rich, that support is shared full circle. Rich works for Soldier’s Angels, an organization that provides aid, comfort and resources to soldiers, veterans and their families.