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Inspiring Arizona: Valley woman gets helping hand in battle with PTSD

"I have my greatest tool with me," Heather Alford said. "She's not only my comfort, but she's also my security."

PHOENIX — A Valley woman battling PTSD from childhood trauma is finally getting some relief. 

She's been matched with an unlikely therapy dog in training who has had quite a journey herself and is now changing one family's life.

"It's been very hard to overcome everything that I have. It's a lot of pain," Heather Alford said. "It's a lot of digging down deep within yourself."

All these years later, it's still hard for Alford to talk about her traumatic past. 

"I do have PTSD from sexual trauma as a child and young adult," Alford said. "So I have a lot of anxieties and a lot of unrealistic fears, I guess."

But when a puppy started a more than 3,000-mile journey from Puerto Rico to Las Vegas then the Valley after almost being placed on a euthanasia list, no one expected the lives that would be changed for the better after landing on Heather's lap.

"I have my greatest tool with me," Alford said. "She's not only my comfort, but she's also my security."

Dosha, now a therapy dog, comforts Alford throughout her entire interview. It's one of the many ways she helps Alford through her anxiety and depression.

Canine Companions LTD matched the pair. The nonprofit has been serving veterans for about two decades. Walter Hart Jr. is the nonprofit's president. While Alford did not serve, her husband did. 

"As I started working with the dog for a few days, I thought she would be a good fit for this couple," Hart said.

The match couldn't be better. Even before Alford herself knows she's going to need Dosha, the dog is by her side. 

"She'll like come up to me and nudge me and I'm like what's wrong, and she'll kind of look at me like you know what's wrong, it's about to happen and then about 45 minutes later, I'll like crack," she said. 

And because of Dosha, Alford says she's also able to take her four young children to the park or store. They're every day tasks for many, that can be overwhelming with her anxiety.

"From my traumas, I switch to worst case scenario very fast," Alford said. "And with Dosha, I know nothing is going to happen."

Dosha's calming nature comes with training too, with both Hart and Alford.

"She keeps me from flying away and straying too far off of keeping my mental health good," Alford said. "Because mental health is extremely important."

Alford plans to train more therapy dogs to help families and others like her.