K9s for Warriors Features ATU Student in Film

Arkansas Tech University student Shilo Schluterman met Javelin, a Labrador and hound mix better known as Javie, on a July morning three years ago.

A veteran of two overseas deployments with the U.S. Air Force Air National Guard, Schluterman approached the meeting set up by the K9s for Warriors organization with more than a few questions.

Would she get the commands right? Would the dog bond with her? Could this be the key in overcoming the disabling Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) that was making previously routine tasks impossible?

Could this meeting, and this dog, save her life?

“All my fears and worries and surprise about these things disappeared the moment I bent down and (Javie) licked my face,” said Schluterman. “It was as if he had been waiting just as long for me as I had been for him. He already knew his job. He was waiting to work with me. It was amazing.”

Schluterman is sharing her story as part of a new documentary entitled “A New Leash on Life: The K9s for Warriors Story,” which was directed by five-time Emmy Award winner Nick Nanton.

A public showing of the film will take place at ATU on Thursday, Nov. 1. The event will begin at 6:30 p.m. in the Doc Bryan Student Services Center Lecture Hall, 1605 Coliseum Drive in Russellville. The reception and screening are free and open to the public.

A film crew visited ATU in February 2018 to interview Schluterman and capture footage of her going through her daily tasks with Javie’s assistance. Schluterman was initially hesitant to participate in the project, but her desire to help fellow veterans ultimately outweighed her concerns.

“I, like many people, wanted to keep this as private as possible so I could pretend that things were okay and I was fine,” said Schluterman. “But I have often told my family and friends that this was what was wrong with the world…everyone pretending to be fine. The truth is every human is struggling with something and bad things can happen to anyone. There is such a stigma about PTSD and mental health issues in general…it is really sad. I prayed for strength to be able to share and be honest about the struggle and how having Javelin has really helped mitigate the symptoms of PTSD for me.

“It is my hope that people who see this film will understand PTSD a little better, that they will see how incredible service dogs are for treatment of this and many other things,” continued Schluterman. “The most important reason to be involved was to share hope to other veterans and trauma victims that if the medications and therapy are still leaving a hole that cannot be overcome, there is still hope…there is a way to stay in the game. Javie is a tool that keeps me in the game, especially when it seems too overwhelming.”

The pairing between veteran and service dog begins with a training period. Almost immediately, Schluterman went from rarely venturing into public to visiting parks, restaurants, stores and a shopping mall — an experience she described as “super intense” — all with the assistance of Javie.

“He has an incredible ability to know before I am aware that my stress and anxiety level has reached a dangerous point,” said Schluterman. “He will do whatever he has to to get my attention…leaning against me, pawing me, licking me, even a short quick bark to get my attention…before I am in a full-fledged anxiety attack. For me, an attack often leads to flashbacks and an inability to recognize where or when I actually am. His early notification of this before it happens has given me the courage to attend college, go to grocery stores and even share my struggles with large audiences, knowing that he will let me know when it’s getting too intense.”

As a result, Schluterman is on pace to graduate from Arkansas Tech during the 2018-19 academic year with a Bachelor of Arts degree in psychology and a minor in sociology. Her career goal is to work in international relations in a capacity that will allow her to assist refugees and orphans.

“I pray the documentary sheds light of some of the symptoms of PTSD that other veterans have, but aren’t aware or are in denial of,” said Schluterman. “Maybe they will give K9s for Warriors a call and give one last try to hang in there, because it’s worth it. I also pray this gives the general public a better understanding of PTSD and service animals in general so that a shift can happen and maybe 22 veterans a day won’t commit suicide. Life is beautiful and awful, but it should never be wasted.”

Arkansas Tech military affiliated students in need of assistance are encouraged to contact the ATU Office of Veteran Services by telephone at (479) 968-0445 or by visiting www.atu.edu/veterans.

Learn more about the documentary screening at ATU.

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