Andrew Dys

Service dog donated to Chester Army combat veteran with PTSD

Misha, a 9-month-old European Shepherd, stands ready to aid her new owner, US Army veteran Michael Snipes. (Photo by ROB UPTON)
Misha, a 9-month-old European Shepherd, stands ready to aid her new owner, US Army veteran Michael Snipes. (Photo by ROB UPTON) Special to The Herald

Michael Snipes served seven tours of combat in Iraq and Afghanistan. The 34-year-old from Great Falls did and saw and survived the horrors and killing of war.

Now Snipes, suffering from post traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injury due to all that combat, needs help.

So the cavalry arrived this week – 9 months old and wagging her tail, with the hairiest legs of any Misha in the world.

Misha is a service dog, an east-European shepherd. She was at Snipes’ house just a couple of days this week when Snipes blacked out. Misha ran for Snipes’ wife, Jessica.

“Misha has already showed that we need her,” Jessica Snipes said.

Army veteran Michael Snipes of Great Falls has a new four-legged family member these days. His service dog, Misha, was a gift from the Food Industry Serving Heroes through the York County Veterans Affairs Office. (video by Andrew Dys)

The York County Veterans Affairs Office has been helping Snipes. Veterans affairs director Joe Medlin – himself a decorated combat veteran of both Iraq and Afghanistan – found Johnny Harris with Food Industry Serving Heroes, a non-profit organization that raises money to help people just like Snipes.

“Michael served our country, he gave so much; now it is our turn,” said Harris, whose organization is made up of veterans who work in grocery stores, restaurants and the hospitality industry.

Medlin and Harris are planning to give another dog to another area veteran later this year.

Misha was trained for months by The Dog Knowledge school for dogs in Charlotte specifically to meet Snipes’ needs, said Jeff Rentz, who trained Misha.

“It is a great fit between Michael and Misha,” he said.

Banfield Pet Hospital, which operates inside the Rock Hill PetSmart, donated a year of free veterinary care for Misha.

Snipes’ daughters – Grace, 9, and Anna, 5 – have taken to Misha, and Misha already loves them. When Grace says sit, Misha sits.

But Misha is not a pet.

Kara Plotz, a Banfield veterinarian, said people who see Snipes with his dog should not treat Misha as they would a pet.

“She is a working dog, a service dog, and her job is to take care of Michael,” Plotz said.

Snipes claims that he is no hero, even though he really is a war hero. His friend Candace Dry of Great Falls is dealing with cancer.

“She is the real definition of brave, not me,” he said.

Snipes is thrilled to have a new companion as he does his best to live a life after dealing with the brutality of combat.

“We have a bond already,” he said.

Andrew Dys •  803-329-4065 •  adys@heraldonline.com

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