KSLA Salutes: Lives changed and lives saved

Air Force veteran, Michael Rochette and his service therapy dog, Chopper. (Source: Rochette)
Air Force veteran, Michael Rochette and his service therapy dog, Chopper. (Source: Rochette)
Updated: Mar. 18, 2019 at 3:17 PM CDT
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Bossier City, LA (KSLA) - Dogs can help people feel better by providing companionship. In some cases, they not only change lives, but save lives.

"(Chopper) Gives me purpose and reason to get up and get moving," said Air Force veteran Michael Rochette.

It’s no secret, before Chopper, Rochette was at rocky point in his life. “It was everything, any noises. I became very introvert,” he explained, “I did not want to go out. I didn’t want to deal with civilian people because they just didn’t understand what our mentality was at the time.”

His 20 years of service included a deployment to Afghanistan in 2011. Once he returned home, he faced a different battle, this one with PTSD.

"I never thought about suicide, because that just isn't my thing, but I did think about packing a backpack and just go walk around the country for a while."

One day someone suggested he get a service dog.

Thanks to the non-profit organization, Guardian Angels, Rochette was paired with Chopper on February 15, 2015. “They brought Chopper out and it’s been love ever since,” explained Rochette, “Chopper gives me a reason to make sure I’m up in the morning, make sure I’m taking care of him, he’s got to get fed, he’s got to get brushed, my god he’s got to get brushed.”

For the last four years, the two have been inseparable.

"It's just a matter of spending time and rubbing on him so he knows what's going on with you."

Having Chopper allows Rochette to go into public and interact with others. “I would say Chopper saved my life. Without him, 2015, I don’t know where I would be.”

Rochette now works to educate others on the importance of service dogs and the benefits of being connected and enrolled in the local VA.

“I call them once a month go over goals go over finances how you’re taking medications, everything.”

Helping to improve the lives of those who fought to defend our freedoms, just as others have helped him.

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