Following her husband’s death, Taya Kyle, widow of Navy SEAL sniper Chris Kyle, said she had nearly reached her breaking point until she was paired with Norman, an “emotional support dog” provided free of charge by Southeastern Guide Dogs.
“I got to experience firsthand the incredible experience of a dog who is just there for you,” Kyle said Thursday at Southeastern Guide Dogs. “He brings healing in ways we never imagined.”
Her late husband, whose bestselling autobiography “American Sniper” became an Academy Award-winning movie directed by Clint Eastwood, is credited with more than 150 kills, which saved the lives of countless American soldiers, sailors and Marines.
Chris Kyle and his friend Chad Littlefield were murdered at a Texas rifle range in 2013 by a former Marine with post-traumatic stress disorder, who was later sentenced to life in prison. He was a man Kyle was trying to help.
Southeastern Guide Dogs has paired thousands of working dogs with grateful veterans – all without a single dollar of government funding.
“Through our veterans’ programs, we salute our American heroes – the men and women of the U.S. Armed Forces who lay it on the line for the rest of us,” CEO Titus Herman. “Here on our campus, we provide dogs for those who cannot see, and for those who have seen too much.”
Taya Kyle, who wrote her own best-selling autobiography “American Wife,” received Norman in June. She said Thursday that she wanted to “help give back” to the nonprofit.
“I want to see more veterans get dogs,” she said.
Southeastern Guide Dogs provides five types of dogs for veterans with differing needs: guide dogs for the visually impaired, service dogs to help veterans suffering from PTSD, facility therapy dogs for military hospitals and clinics, emotional support dogs to provide love and comfort for veterans with disabilities and Gold Star Family dogs to the families of service men and women killed in combat.
“Even though he’s shared by my whole family, Norman follows me into every room I’m in,” Taya Kyle said. “When I’m working, he curls up under the desk. If ever anyone doubts the value that Southeastern Guide Dogs bring to people, remind them of my story.”
Kyle said she wants people to realize that it’s not just the veteran who serves, but their entire family.
“I didn’t get into a military marriage because I was gung-ho about the military. I just loved Chris,” she said. “It’s the same with all families.”
During her remarks, she said that Norman couldn’t make the busy trip from their home in Texas to Florida. Southeastern officials quickly provided a stand-in, a yellow Labrador retriever ironically named “Chris,” who remained dutifully by Kyle’s side during her stay at their campus.
“Chris was apparently named after my husband, I’m told,” she said. “His coloring is even similar to Chris’.”
The Lab was needed, especially when she discussed her children.
“My kids are resilient. They’ve got a strong faith, but my daughter has a hard time sleeping … at times …” she said, before welling up in tears.
“Hey Chris,” she said, wiping tears and looking down at the dog curled by her feet. “Do your job!”