[Nfbc-info] What roadside bomb takes away, guide dogs return tenfold

Rob Kaiser rcubfank at sbcglobal.net
Thu Sep 17 10:44:31 UTC 2015

Great article. Thank you for sharing this to the list.

Rob Kaiser
rcubfank at sbcglobal.net
-----Original Message----- 
From: Nancy Lynn via Nfbc-info
Sent: Wednesday, September 16, 2015 6:09 PM
To: mcb chat ; MCB List ; nfbmo list ; NFBC List
Cc: Nancy Lynn
Subject: [Nfbc-info] What roadside bomb takes away, guide dogs return 

I got this from the ACB list and thought you’d like to see it.
What roadside bomb takes away, guide dogs return tenfold
Sue Manning, Associated Press Updated 8:50 am, Wednesday, September 16, 2015

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Michael Jernigan lost his eyesight and part of his brain 
in Iraq in 2004. But he insists, thanks to a couple of dogs, he found more 
than he lost.

His confidence, hopes, dreams, independence — they were shattered on a 
roadway. He couldn't even go to games for his favorite team, the Tampa Bay 
Rays. Then Brittani, a Labrador and golden retriever mix, became his "battle 
buddy." She boosted his confidence and independence and taught him to forget 
his disabilities and concentrate on his capabilities, he said. They got a 
history degree together and even went to the ballpark.

Jernigan was a Marine corporal on patrol with four others on Aug. 22, 2004, 
on the outskirts of Mahmudiyah, between Baghdad and Kuwait. A roadside bomb 
ripped into their Humvee, killing one and injuring most of the rest. 
Jernigan was thrown 60 feet from the gun turret.

Surgeons removed both eyes, the front of his brain and his forehead — 
leaving the rest of his brain to be supported by titanium mesh. His left 
kneecap was fractured and his right hand had to be rebuilt. He has undergone 
more than 30 surgeries, and he can only see black. Through it all, Jernigan 
said, the hardest part of all was being alone.

But before the surgeries were done, Southeastern Guide Dogs, Inc., in 
Palmetto, Florida, contacted Jernigan's mom and told her they would have a 
dog for her son when he needed one.

Jernigan is still learning to handle large crowds, but Brittani helped him 
control anxiety attacks caused by post-traumatic stress disorder. One day 
when they got caught in a crowd and Jernigan became "frazzled," Brittani 
went to work.

She "started hitting my hand with her cold, wet nose," Jernigan recalled. "I 
started petting her neck. She was wagging her tail and kissing my face. She 
realized I was at my breaking point and stopped me and helped me release all 
that tension to get me to a better place." It felt, he added, like "I had a 
Marine to the right and a Marine to the left of me at all times."

Earlier this year, Brittani retired and is living with a friend. It took 
several months to find a replacement, a Labrador named Treasure, who could 
match Brittani's speed, gait and size. But Treasure has taken over where 
Brittani left off.

"Brittani was the longest and most successful female relationship I have 
ever had," Jernigan joked. He adds that he "will never be able to replace 
Brittani. It doesn't mean Treasure won't have a tremendous impact on my 
life — just different."

After training with Treasure for 26 days on Southeastern's campus, Jernigan 
graduated in August and began a new phase of his life. He turns 37 in 

Only in the last two or three years has he started to understand how great 
his recovery was. "What I have been able to accomplish post-recovery is 
amazing, unbelievable. It wasn't too many years ago I thought I might have 
to live in a nursing home having somebody take care of me."

In some ways, he thinks "getting blown up was the best thing that ever 
happened to me because it changed the trajectory of my life. Before, I was a 
failed student. Wounded, I made a comeback and am a better son now than 

There are things he can't do: "You wouldn't want me driving a car, would 
you?" But he is writing a book, organizing a motivational speaking tour and 
working at Southeastern.

"If you used one word to describe Michael it would be inspirational," said 
Titus Herman, Southeastern's CEO. "The fact that he has found the commitment 
and courage to create a life of meaning is inspirational to all of us. We 
are in awe of his accomplishments. He pushes all of us to try harder."
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