Published by The Columbus Dispatch

As Mike Mastriana spoke about his tour of duty in Iraq, of the years he spent as a crew chief on a Black Hawk helicopter, and of the physical and emotional pain he suffered during the war, his dog stood on its hind legs and wrapped its front paws around his right knee.

Phoenix didn’t jump, didn’t pounce, didn’t bark or even lick. The dog just stood there, really, and nuzzled its face against Mastriana’s leg and held on.

“He’s hugging me,” said Mastriana, a veteran who spent six years with the Ohio Army National Guard. “He’s the only dog I’ve ever seen that gives real hugs. Some days, I need that.”

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