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Someone to Watch Over Me

At military and veterans’ hospitals around the country, dogs are increasingly part of the cure

Sleep—like air and water—is something people rarely think about until they’re unable to get any. Then, abruptly, sleep becomes a grail, its absence anguishing, affecting all elements of an insomniac’s life. Lack of sleep impairs the brain’s ability to learn, to grow, to process thoughts and emotions. And when those emotions are already in turmoil, a human being can experience a perfect storm of trouble.

That storm hit Christopher Hill hard. The Marine staff sergeant had a raft of reasons for the insomnia that began after his first deployment to Iraq in 2003. He’d survived two more tours, all in heavily contested Fallujah, when during his fourth tour of duty in April 2004, his camp was subjected to an insurgent attack. A rocket-propelled grenade exploded nearby, killing four people. Hill was thrown into the air and landed on his back on a concrete barrier.

After the initial shock, he thought he was fine. “I figured I was good to go, no bleeding from the ears, no broken bones. I was sore, but I’d gotten kicked up in the air like Charlie Brown, so I figured I was gonna be sore,” he says. But back at Camp Pendleton in California, the longtime bodybuilder was in the gym doing bench presses one day, and when he racked the weights and tried to get off the bench, he couldn’t move.

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