While shopping at McChord Field, Cpt. Shanda Taylor-Boyd saw a Ranger newspaper and knew immediately that she'd found the perfect name for the puppy she'd just purchased for her three daughters. But Ranger would grow to mean much more to her - he not only saved her life one day, he became her guide.
IN 2004, Boyd, a then nurse at JBLM's Madigan Army Medical Center, was on way home after her shift when an oncoming vehicle blindsided her on State Route 520 near Redmond.
"I not only went to work the next day but the day after that and the day after that," said Boyd, a 23-year veteran who also served with the Army's military police. "A lot of pain and hospital visits followed, but it wasn't until 2008 that I was officially diagnosed with traumatic brain injury (TBI). No one knew what was going on, not even me and I was a nurse. But Ranger knew. Once at a bookstore he refused to sit down and kept on barking at me. I was having a mild seizure and didn't know it. I had headaches, neck aches, couldn't sleep and was disoriented, it was scary."
Boyd needed speech pathology and was now distracted easily. "Initially, I felt betrayed because I couldn't do what I loved as a nurse," she said. "I used to be a great organizer but couldn't do a lot of things like I did before. I learned to ask people to repeat questions so I could either rephrase it or write it down for understanding. Processing incoming information was difficult and simple things like booking a flight or grocery shopping became overwhelming." Ranger also evolved from a pet into her service animal. Her marriage also ended, "because he didn't know what was going on," she said. "How could he? I wasn't diagnosed until long after."
But Boyd's journey didn't end there.
Her life changed again when she attended the National Disabled Veterans sports clinics, a project sponsored by the Department of Veterans Affairs and the Disabled American Veterans (DAV). Boyd received an invitation to share her story and since then has been touring the country. She's spoken at the Veterans Health Research Week in Washington D.C., has shared her story in a video, and has also been featured in DAV's Grace Under Fire magazine (2012 July-August issue) with Veteran of the Year winner J.R. Martinez. Her latest achievement is appearing in a DAV poster with other veterans and actor Gary Sinise, a DAV spokesperson, star of CBS-TV show "CSI - New York," and member of the Lieutenant Dan band (which regularly performs for troops).
She also ventures out on her own with Ranger to events nationwide and, "stands there to be seen," she said. "I want to be an inspiration to all disabled veterans. I want to prove that life goes on and I'll use TBI as a weapon for empowerment. Just because I'm not doing things quickly doesn't mean that one day I can't do it again. TBI doesn't define me, I'll define it."