Jim Brakewood Jr. might look like kind of a scary dude. At 6’2”, loaded with muscles, long, wild hair and a beard a to match, he cuts a pretty imposing figure. It’s as if a Viking decided he wasn’t ready for Valhalla just yet and decided to pay Instagram a visit instead.
He has a soft spot for dogs, though. In particular, his Staffordshire Bull Terrier, Amora.
Jim has seen war. In two tours in Iraq he has been in battle, he has been wounded and he has lost friends. During his second tour, Jim was shot in the head in Mosul, but somehow survived and made his way back home. He earned a Purple Heart, but was diagnosed with PTSD and like many of our veterans he turned to drinking and thoughts of suicide.
His warrior spirit wouldn’t allow him to just give up, though.
Jim realized that he was headed down a dangerous path, had been making poor choices and was determined to make a change. After some time, he felt that a young puppy might help with his PTSD training. He recalls the day he went to the humane society to adopt a puppy and met Amora, a three-legged Staffordshire Bull Terrier,
“On the way back to go check out the puppies I walked by Amora. She just had her surgery to amputate her back right leg, she had her cone [on] and her bandages/stitches were still fresh. She tried with all her might to get up and meet me and I could see how much it hurt her but she didn’t care and I fell in love right there.”
As we all know, Pit Bulls often get a bad rap. Marked as an “aggressive breed”, they make up 40% of the 1.5 million dogs euthanized in shelters each year. Even looking like a Pit Bull breed can mean a long stay in a shelter kennel for a dog, or worse, being euthanized immediately. However, Jim wasn’t concerned. Moved to tears at the little pup in her surgery cone, he decided to take her home. She settled in, climbed into his lap and fell asleep. Jim marked the occasion with a photo – Amora asleep and him with a happy smile, even with the tears in his eyes.
The moment Jim captured in the photo turned out to be a huge one,
“I knew my life had changed. I couldn’t kill myself anymore. I knew I had to stay alive to protect her and make sure she was ok. She needed me. I needed her.”
Amora arrived at the shelter after being in a car accident. Her leg was injured to the point that it couldn’t be saved and was removed just before she met Jim. She isn’t a “service animal” or “therapy dog” in the way that we typically think of one. Jim says:
“I have trained Amora in almost no way. She comes when I call her and that’s about as far as I have taken it… She doesn’t have the official designation of ‘service animal’. She cuddles next to me when I need it and I don’t even ask, she knows when to give me space somehow, she gives my life purpose and direction.”
“She keeps me company, gives me a best friend… I don’t think I can emphasize enough how much she means to me and how much she has helped me. I wake up in the middle of the night if she stops snoring.”
— War Beard (@JimBrakewood) April 12, 2017
“…she gave me the will to live. A 5-year relationship ended, I was a complete and utter isolated shut-in outside the gym and my PTSD and TBI symptoms and issues were just getting overwhelming. I couldn’t enjoy things anymore, I had no motivation for much of anything…”
“…and somehow she changed all that.”
Just came home to a homemade quilt for my little princess Amora!!! pic.twitter.com/osPOSwftXu
— War Beard (@JimBrakewood) April 10, 2017
“It’s hard to explain … when I brought her home I just knew I had to protect her and give her the best life I can. And I couldn’t be selfish and kill myself anymore, she needs me.”
Update: Shortly after Jim shared his story with us, he lost Amora to a tragic accident. She is missed every day and remembered fondly as a bright spot in his life. He continues to rescue Pit Bulls, and saved Logan shortly after losing Amora.
You can keep up with Jim and Logan on Instagram.
See more of Joseph Gianetti Jr.’s photography at PhotographingStrength.com