In 2008 Iraq War veteran Bill Campbell was making a special visit to Bedford Hills Correctional Facility in New York. Accompanying Campbell was his Labrador, Pax. But when the dog spotted one particular inmate, he left everyone gobsmacked as he took off towards her.
Campbell lives in Mason County, Washington. When he was younger, he spent close to two decades working for the local government as a biologist. What’s more, he was in the National Guard for almost 10 years.
When the Iraq War began, Campbell decided to re-enlist. As a result, he was deployed in 2004 as an Army National Guard sergeant. It was his job to manage security at an operation base for the 81st Brigade Combat Team.
Campbell therefore found himself in a dangerous position. Indeed, he experienced a number of explosions and suffered two concussions as a result. Then, in November 2004 he was involved in a car bomb attack outside the Iraqi capital of Baghdad.
The blast left Campbell with shrapnel wounds on his hand. On the bright side, the U.S. military awarded him with a Purple Heart. However, a medal wasn’t the only thing with which the sergeant left the Iraq War.
When he returned home, Campbell was a changed man. His experience of combat had left him with PTSD and a traumatic brain injury. His shrapnel wound also caused nerve damage. Given this circumstance, the military categorized him as 100 percent disabled.
Campbell’s injuries left him with memory loss and a phobia relating to crowds. He suffered from nightmares and was prone to panic attacks. Hence, as Campbell told The Olympian in 2008, “I pretty much was housebound.”
The veteran was in desperate need of intervention. Finally, then, his psychologist suggested that he look into getting a service dog. “My psychologist wanted me to look for more ways to get out,” Campbell explained. “[Taking care of a dog] forces you to get out and take him for walks.”
That’s how Pax the yellow Labrador came into Campbell’s life. The dog had received expert training to help his new owner through everyday life. And it didn’t take long for the effects of the animal’s skills to be felt.
Pax’s main priority was to make Campbell feel safe. With that in mind, the dog stuck right by his master’s side when out in public. And when Campbell awoke from a night terror, Pax was there to let him know he was home and safe.
It’s fair to say that Pax gave Campbell a new lease of life. And as a result, he was keen to show his gratitude to the people who had trained the dog in the first place. So, in 2008 Campbell paid a visit to the Bedford Hills Correctional Facility in New York state.
Pax had been trained by 27 female inmates at Bedford Hills as part of the Dog Tags program run by Puppies Behind Bars. The non-profit organization raises dogs to support the needs of veterans who served in Iraq and Afghanistan.
During Pax’s time at Bedford Hills, one inmate took responsibility for him. The dog lived in her cell and helped her with her rehabilitation. And through the training program, she learned the importance of taking responsibility and having compassion.
When Pax then subsequently returned to the prison, no one could have had an idea of exactly how he’d react. But as soon as he saw one particular inmate, he left Campbell’s side and sprinted off to greet her. The woman, meanwhile, ran to meet the dog before collapsing on the ground and succumbing to Pax’s sloppy kisses.
The woman was Laurie Kellogg, the person who had raised Pax as a puppy. Kellogg, who is serving a murder sentence, received the dog only three weeks after the death of her dad – and she has said that the animal’s companionship helped her through her grief.
With that in mind, Kellogg was devastated in 2007 when Pax went into service. That said, she was able to communicate with Campbell and received updates on the dog’s progress. Nothing, however, could beat reuniting with Pax in person.
Following their emotional meeting, Kellogg invited Campbell to one of the Puppies Behind Bars training sessions. There, inmates revealed how they teach the dogs to fetch and respond to emergency situations. Then, Kellogg opened up about what the program had meant to her.
Kellogg explained, “I knew when they told me he was going to go into PTSD training that he would make somebody feel the sense of freedom that he gave me.” She added, “He gave me back pieces of myself that I forgot even existed.”
Kellogg continued, “When he left me and they told me he was going to you, Bill, I sat on my floor and I cried. And I realized that by giving me Pax, and by taking him from me, they had given me the greatest gift anybody had ever given me in my entire life. That he restored a piece of my soul.”
So, not only had Pax changed Campbell’s life, but he’d also apparently given Kellogg something invaluable: hope. And she will be ever thankful to Campbell for bringing Pax to see her. “I never thought I’d see him again,” she told The New York Times in 2008. “If they opened the doors and let me out of prison, I wouldn’t feel this good.”