As the Army struggles to address the broad swath of stress disorders and mental health problems brought on by more than a decade of war, one of the biggest hurdles is getting soldiers to put aside the bravado and seek treatment. Lexy, it turns out, is particularly good at that.
Van Woodruff, who was a sergeant first class, went to his scheduled appointment just a few days before he was set to get his medical retirement and move out of the Army after 13 years in the service.
"It's hard for me to come to these appointments. I can't really sit in the waiting room," said Woodruff, who suffers from obsessive-compulsive disorder. "I don't look forward to this whole process of being here. ... The whole process of being here is something that's agitative to my diagnosis."
But on a sunny Wednesday morning, the Alabama native is sitting in Rumayer's office. "This is the only one I look forward to going to because of Lexy. I love dogs."
Rumayor, who wrote the Fort Bragg policy that allows her to use Lexy in her practice, said there was resistance at first.
"You don't want everybody to think they can just bring their dog to work," she said.
Rumayor also has seen what an asset the dog can be in getting soldiers to seek out therapy and consistently attend their appointments.
Walking around the base, she uses Lexy as a lightning rod to attract soldiers, then draws them into conversation. On any given day, she and Lexy will wander over to the motor pool or anywhere troops might gather, to see who might be interested in having a chat.
"Stigma is one of the huge things the military is trying super hard to overcome — behavioral health stigma being the biggest one, I think. And Lexy is probably the biggest asset I have in overcoming that stigma," Rumayor said. "There's nothing better than coming to an appointment where you get to have a warm fuzzy thing that you get to pet all the time. People don't want to come in the door. When they see her coming in, it makes them want to come in the door."