Dog gives ailing Battle Ground teen new leash on life

Battle Ground teen who lost lower leg after being hit by car receives service canine, helping him cope with depression

By Emily Gillespie, Columbian Breaking News Reporter

Published:

 

Justin Carey's life was changed in 2013 when he was hit by a car while waiting for the school bus. After receiving a prosthetic leg and battling severe depression, a German Shepard service dog named Shiva entered the 16-year-old's life. Shiva is being trained to help Carey with physical and emotional stabilization as he continues to overcome his struggles.

Justin Carey and Shiva, his service-dog-in-training, are participating in a clothing and textile drive through Clothes For a Cause and Northwest Battle Buddies. "Team Justin and Shiva" is helping to gather 80,000 pounds of clothes and textiles, which will pay the $16,000 it costs for one service dog to go to a veteran. To donate on their behalf, drop off a bag labeled "Justin and Shiva." Drop-offs can be arranged by calling 360-601-9744 or emailing northwestbattlebuddies@gmail.com.

To learn more about Justin Carey and Shiva, visit their Facebook page, www.facebook.com/Justinandshiva.

Justin Carey and Shiva, his service-dog-in-training, are participating in a clothing and textile drive through Clothes For a Cause and Northwest Battle Buddies. “Team Justin and Shiva” is helping to gather 80,000 pounds of clothes and textiles, which will pay the $16,000 it costs for one service dog to go to a veteran. To donate on their behalf, drop off a bag labeled “Justin and Shiva.” Drop-offs can be arranged by calling 360-601-9744 or emailing northwestbattlebuddies@gmail.com.

To learn more about Justin Carey and Shiva, visit their Facebook page, www.facebook.com/Justinandshiva.

Losing part of a leg at age 16 hasn’t been easy for Justin Carey.

The Battle Ground High School student has had to relearn how to walk, this time on a prosthetic leg. He takes an hour longer to get ready in the morning and has had to learn to drive with his left foot. But the biggest change he’s had to deal with is letting go of his dreams of one day joining the military — a heartbreaking reality he’s still facing.

The lower-leg amputation led Carey into a deep depression that left him questioning life itself.

In recent months, however, Carey has slowly started to come out of the dark place. His mother, Janette Chumley, said her son has started going on hikes with his dad and four-wheeling with his family.

But what finally got Carey back to his usual bubbly self was a four-legged girl named Shiva.

Traumatic crash

Carey’s life was altered on the morning of June 10, 2013. While waiting for the school bus, he was struck by a Nissan Maxima that veered off the road.

The driver of the car, Shaun C. Johnson, faces charges of vehicular assault and possession of methamphetamine. The case is set to go to trial Jan. 12.

The crash threw Carey 150 feet into a bush, where he laid for 90 minutes, undetected by police and paramedics who responded to the scene. Charles Barrett, a tow truck operator who came to collect Johnson’s vehicle, eventually heard Carey’s faint cries and found him. He called 911 to bring an ambulance back to the scene.

The days that followed were tense. Both of Carey’s femurs were broken and his femoral arteries injured, which meant numerous surgeries. Despite the damage to Carey’s body, doctors were initially optimistic about his prognosis, saying he would have full function of both legs.

A week and a half into his recovery, Carey contracted an infection and his right leg began to die. He and his mother were forced to make the difficult decision to amputate. Carey’s ninth surgery removed the lower half of his right leg.

Depression

Carey used a wheelchair for three months until his prosthetic leg arrived in October 2013. While he was propping himself upright physically, he was still healing emotionally.

Around February of this year, about eight months after the crash, Carey sank into a deep depression.

“I didn’t think I could do anything,” Carey said. “I got really sad.”

Chumley said her son wasn’t himself — he became withdrawn, spent a lot of time in his room alone and didn’t want to go anywhere with his friends or family.

“He had said something to my mom about taking his own life,” Chumley said. “I honestly thought we were going to lose him.”

Chumley rushed Carey to his doctor, who prescribed anti-depressants. For the next seven days, Carey didn’t go anywhere alone — family members and teachers at school kept a hypervigilant eye on him at all times.

“I just felt like I was losing my son,” Chumley said with tears in her eyes.

While brainstorming things that might help her son heal, Chumley remembered that since he was a little boy, Carey had always wanted a “police dog.” So she searched for a German Shepherd and emailed Shannon Walker, whose twin sons had gone through the ROTC program with Carey.

Walker owns Man’s Best Friend, a dog-training company in Battle Ground, and founded Northwest Battle Buddies, a nonprofit aimed at giving service dogs to veterans.

In the email, Chumley told her a little about her son and asked if she knew of any breeders.

“I knew right away that Shiva was right for him,” Walker said. Shiva, a 1-year-old German Shepherd, had been given to Walker. She trained the dog to be a service dog, but hadn’t yet decided what to with her.

“I don’t normally gift dogs,” she said, clarifying that Shiva was her personal dog that she was giving Carey. “It was just the right thing to do. It was where she was meant to be.”

Walker’s two 19-year-old boys are in the military and left home within a month of each other. Her heart instantly went out to Chumley.

“I don’t know any pain like that of a mom, to be in a place where you don’t know how to help them,” Walker said. “When you have the opportunity to be a blessing, you take it. … I was so excited to call her and tell them that we had Shiva for them.”

Learning together

Carey, now 17, has spent the last few weeks training with Shiva, letting her learn how he balances and braces with his prosthetic leg.

Before Carey can take Shiva home, the two must pass the canine good citizen test and the public access test. So at least three times a week, Carey practices giving Shiva commands as the two walk around parking lots and through busy places such as malls and stores.

Every Wednesday, Carey and Shiva train alongside the veterans who received their service dogs through Northwest Battle Buddies.

“Who better for him to help recover with?” Walker said. “They have the same hearts. … They help each other and support each other.”

Just wanting to serve in the military gives Carey the same heart as the veterans, Walker said.

“They’re all overcomers, all finding something new,” she said. “None of their lives went the way they thought it was going to go. They’re both finding the courage to find what’s next.”

Carey and many of the veterans with whom he trains suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder, and the dogs provide comfort when they need it most, Walker said.

“She’ll snap him out of every bad emotion,” Walker said. “These dogs bring you (back) into the now.”

Shanda Taylor-Boyd, a retired army nurse who lives in Sammamish, trains her service dog Timber with Carey and Shiva.

Taylor-Boyd was also injured in a crash. In 2004, while working at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, she was seriously injured when another vehicle hydroplaned and crashed into her.

She suffers from fibromyalgia, a traumatic brain injury and PTSD. Taylor-Boyd also has back pain and wears two leg braces.

When she met Carey, she said she instantly knew that the 17-year-old understood her.

“Justin has a passion for the military,” she said. “He just beamed when he talked about the ROTC. He’s so patriotic.”

Taylor-Boyd has close friends who are amputees and knows that many soldiers struggle with depression. A devastating amount, she said, end up committing suicide.

When Carey said something to his grandmother, Taylor-Boyd said, “that took courage, that took bravery.”

“I, too, know what it’s like to want to leave this earth for being in so much pain,” she said. “He’s a hero. He is the one that’s inspiring.”

Carey said that even though he only sees Shiva a few times a week, he already has experienced a deep connection with the dog.

“She licks my face … she knows when I’m cold,” he said. “She’s like my best friend … she’s made my whole year better.”