Army veteran paired with service dog to help him cope with PTSD


HOUSTON – KPRC 2 first featured Kirby, believed to be the Texans’ pup, during a puppy bowl segment in February.

But now, thanks to a sponsorship with the Houston Texans and Kroger, Kirby is being trained to be a service dog. But before that, Kirby had to take a break to hit the puppy grill for a feature film on Animal Planet.

On Sunday, the now famous pup was able to meet the army veteran with whom he will soon continue to serve.

“A lot of emotions. A lot of emotions. It’s a blessing. I knew it was meant to be,” Sergeant Major (Retired) Kevin Bittenbender said.

sergeant. Bittenbender shared what it was like to meet Kirby during the Texans game at NRG.

“It took me eight years to finally go talk to someone,” Bittenbender said.

Bittenbender said he suffered from PTSD and also admitted that it took him a while to come to terms with that conclusion. He said he developed it after serving in the U.S. military for 34 years, during which time he was deployed several times during Operation Enduring Freedom.

Along with needing a left leg amputation due to combat service and exposure to the burn pit in Afghanistan, Bittenbender also deals with deep emotional scars.

“I have survivor’s guilt. I lost three great friends of mine in Afghanistan. With that, I struggle with that on a daily basis,” he said.

Bittenbender requested a service dog six months ago to help with her daily life.

“I struggle, especially in public. I hope Kirby will help me with that and be a go-between, giving me more social ability to be social, you know?” Bittenbender explained.

To be chosen as the final recipient of the American Vet Dogs, he calls it a blessing.

As for other veterans and first responders going through a difficult time…he said it was important to speak up and be heard.

“In the military, I think we’re some of the best actors and actresses. We’ve put up this front and this armor and it’s hard to get rid of this armor. We don’t want to show weakness, but it’s okay. If you have another veteran contact them and let them know you have their sixes…you have their back and it’s good to talk to you and share with you what they need to get rid of his chest,” Bittenbender said.

Bittenbender will go through his own training to learn Kirby’s commands, and then Kirby will join the whole family at their home in Pennsylvania.

“Like I said, I’m really ready to start this journey with Kirby,” he said.

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