Veteran rediscovers pride through dog


A military veteran who has suffered with post traumatic stress and loneliness has rediscovered his pride after taking in a dog with famous military connections.

Thomas Masters struggled for almost a decade to adapt to civilian life after he was discharged from the Army on medical grounds.

The 44-year-old had served in Germany and Cyprus but suffered a knee injury in 1997 by a horse kick during ceremonial duties in London and was forced to give up his duties.

Mr Masters, who lives in Aboyne, Aberdeenshire, said he turned to alcohol and lost jobs before he was diagnosed with PTSD.

But as he continues to volunteer with charities to help others recover he has taken ownership of specially trained springer spaniel Antis from charity Bravehound which pairs dogs with veterans to help them to adjust to civilian life.

Named after the dog which flew with RAF pilot Robert Bozdech during the Second World War and inspired the book War Dog, Antis joined Mr Masters at a Bravehound event in Glasgow on Thursday.

Antis and Mr Masters were paired by charity Bravehound (Paul Ward/PA)
Antis and Mr Masters were paired by charity Bravehound (Paul Ward/PA)

Mr Masters said: "I had been part of a brotherhood in the Army where there was strong loyalty and trust and I came back out into society where everyone was going at 100mph.

"I struggled to fit in and couldn't understand why so I would go to the pub and get drunk - I thought that was the answer.

"It turned me into an alcoholic and cost me a job and my driving licence.

"It took until I had a breakdown in 2004 before I got in touch with Combat Stress and went through treatment programmes and that got me involved with other charities and eventually Bravehound."

Mr Masters gave up his only previous dog when he joined the Army in 1990 and is delighted to be caring for Antis.

"I was given the book War Dog about Antis and as a veteran, to be carrying forward a name from the Second World War is a pleasure and an honour," he said.

"It has given me that sense of pride back that I lost when I left the Army. I have something to be proud of and that little man is going to have the best life you could imagine."

The original Antis was awarded the Dickin Medal, dubbed the animal Victoria Cross, at the end of the Second World War.

The dog, which was found abandoned in no man's land became the squadron mascot for Bomber Command and flew with Czech pilot Bozdech on a number of RAF missions.

Mr Bozdech's daughters only found about Antis through reading after their father died and they travelled from England to meet Mr Masters and his new dog.

Nina Buckley said: "I think it was just the most loyal, wonderful friendship that they had and Antis just did everything with dad.

"A dog can be so giving and this Antis is so full of energy and loyal that it looks like the beginning of another wonderful friendship."

Bravehound founder and chief executive Fiona MacDonald said: "We have met quite a lot of veterans who have been isolated and we thought it might help them to have a dog but when they come back to us and say 'I wouldn't be here if it wasn't for the dog' it's really very moving.

"Just seeing how happy Tommy is today is incredible."