Jacqueline Acosta served in the US Army from 1981 to 2005, rising to the rank of Sgt. 1st Class while installing and maintaining communication equipment used in combat. She deployed to Central America, Bosnia/Macedonia, Kosovo, Iraq, Somalia, Saudi Arabia, and Afghanistan, where she sustained a fractured back and other serious injuries.
Trauma from her service, and from horrific stories she heard in the civil service job as a court reporter she took after she recovered, left her with severe PTSD. the Veterans Administration provided to service dog, Buddy, to help ease her suffering and facilitate integration into the civilian world. When Buddy died in 2020, Acosta was devastated.
“I truly felt I was going to die,” she says. “I fell into a deep depression and hardly left my home.”
In February 2021, the retired veteran found hope again with the help of an organization called Service Dogs for Veterans (SD4V) and a beautiful black and white mixed-breed dog they found for her at the Greenville Humane Society.
Acosta named her Zelda.
“She had so much energy and was so loving and looked at me like she knew me,” Acosta says. “Looking into her eyes from her, one brown and one blue, I knew she was the dog I needed. She wants to please so much, and I could see the love in her eyes of her grow stronger every day. Through all the training she made me feel whole again, and I have regained much more confidence. I love her so much!”
Although the training was challenging, Acosta grew less afraid and became convinced that healing was possible with Zelda by her side.
“Now as a trained service dog, Zelda gives me the strength to get out and travel, be in public settings, and be among ‘the living’ again,” Acosta says. “Most importantly, Zelda gives me love and affection, and I am so grateful she is mine.”
The pair have taken a couple of long road trips, traveled to Washington DC and Miami on Amtrak trains, and flown to visit a friend in Albuquerque, New Mexico, for a month, attending festivals and public events. Acosta hopes they will be able to take a cruise this year to celebrate her 65th birthday.
“I take her everywhere,” Acosta says. “Ella She’s so affectionate, and ella she’s never met a stranger.”
Rachel Delport, CEO of Greenville Humane Societysays the society shares some volunteers with SD4V, including some who participated in Acosta and Zelda’s training. Another dog chosen for the program, Emory, had suffered maltreatment and received medical care at GHS’s Healing Place before being matched with his veteran.
“The SD4V program looks for dogs that connect with the veteran but also have the drive to learn,” Delport says. “We have so many dogs like Zelda and Emory who are looking for their saving grace, and what better way for them to be a saving grace in return.”
In addition to dogs and puppies, the Humane Society has cats and kittens available for adoption. It accepts animals from high-euthanasia shelters in other states, including some with serious illnesses that are treated in the Healing Place, saving thousands of pets and helping reduce euthanasia rates throughout the region.
The nonprofit’s spay/neuter clinic and walk-in vaccine clinic offer reasonable prices to the public, with proceeds used to provide care for shelter animals. Other support comes from charitable donations. The Community Foundation of Greenville makes annual grants to GHS from the Margaret Linder Southern Endowment Fund.
“The Greenville Humane Society is an example of how effective executive and board leadership can deliver in ways that have a vast impact on the quality of life in Greenville County,” says Bob Morris, CFG President.
For more information, visit https://www.greenvillehumane.com/