Friday, December 31, 2010


Penny's From Heaven Foundation's Therapy and Service Dogs are little pieces of brilliant light that enter rooms and lives, and for the time they are there they provide solace, peace, comfort, joy, healing and in many cases courage.

In the darkness, sometimes we all wait for those moments of light found in the brilliant security and love of a dog.  Our therapy dogs are sensitive and people focused and our service dogs are hyper-observant and seem to notice the invisible knots wrapped around people's souls and hearts. Sometimes our souls whisper gently, nudging us to a place we have never been before. These dogs, our gifts from God, are the catalyst, providing us with the ability to take another step, another breath, another chance. With them comes trust and a love most of us have never experienced, a total and complete acceptance without judgement, without cause.

It occured to me deep into the night last evening, that I want everything neat and tidy and clean and organized. I loathe disruption, confusion, and irritations. But that is not the way life is.  I fight like a salmon swimming upstream, but the current is too strong, the waves too overwhelming. This knowledge alone can lead me to a place deeper inside of myself.  A place where I find my true self, a place where I have learned to appreciate life at a different level.

Messages are offered to all of us.  The problem lies in our ability to stand still long enough to accept them, to hear them, to listen to them.  Sometimes we are waiting, waiting to get our wings, waiting to remember how to fly.  These are the times when a cherished best friend awaits, captures our heart and leads us out of the darkness. Sometimes this best friend is a dog who will sit beside us and wait with us, until we remember how to flap our wings once again and how to live in a world that is much different from any we once remembered.

Moments and places of darkness can be places where you have the time and space to nurture yourself, a place where you quietly wait for the time when your future once again lies in front of you and you see glimpes of daylight once again.  

To my wounded warriors, military sexual assault survivors, and all suffering from the horrors of PTSD, this new year I wish you peace and healing and the love of a dog to guide you out of the darkness and into the light.


13423 BLANCO ROAD, STE 218

Thursday, December 30, 2010


A friend sent me an email recently and asked if I was doing okay.  I wrote back and told him - "sorta, maybe, mostly, sometimes, depends....."

I have spent the past three days, seventeen hours plus, each day, in my office ripping it to shreds.  Okay, not literally perhaps, but shredding, pitching, sorting, filing, and filling jumbo trash bags with 'stuff.'  The stuff a life is made of.  Twenty years on television and radio. Twenty years of memories were relentlessly devoured by a slightly crazed woman seeking to make order out of chaos.  Successful?  Don't know yet.  Remorseful, not at all.  Satisfied - definitely.  In some perverse way it feels good, cleansing, and refreshing.

I am the kind of person who upon occasion, needs to experience instant gratification.  This happens by vacuuming, cleaning out drawers or closets, mowing the grass (if in fact I mowed grass).  Performing tasks where you can instantly see the results.  I do this when there is nothing else in my life I can control. You see I cannot operate in chaos, either mental or visual,  and definitely not in clutter.  But I need my pretties around me, my treasures, my memories.  They bring me closer to who I really am. It doesn't hurt to have Andrea Bocelli in the background.

All of this cleaning frenzy was prompted by a phone call from a potential donor, asking to come by 'our offices' for Train a Dog Save a Warrior "to see our operation."  I couldn't help but laugh. What he would have seen would have been an executive director in her pjs, sitting in the middle of piles and piles of paperwork, books, baskets, file boxes and chaos in the upstairs office of her home.  He would have either run screaming or taken enormous pity and given me a great deal of money...for a 'real' office.

Yesterday, a dear precious board member came and helped me from nine in the morning, until quite late at night.  We made progress, headway, guaranteeing the recycle facility will be a little more full of shredded paper at the close of another year.  And on the bright side, we were a little more than full of Christmas chocolates.  You see, it helped ease the pain!

Now this is a friend.  One who takes an entire day of her holiday vacation to help organize the Penny's from Heaven Foundation and TADSAW office.

It still needs help, but I am tired.  And this morning I ache, mentally and physically.  Christmas, parties, hurry scurry.  You know....the trappings of 'the season'.  Tomorrow is New Year's Eve.  I have no plans.  I have no resolutions to break. No champagne to toast a new year. And in South Texas no self respecting person can lack for black eyed peas for good luck.  I  have none.

This morning I am searching for that happy ending for 2010.  My happy endings are mostly personal and surely of little or no interest to most of you.  What I do hope is that in some small way my efforts have dried a tear, made a life a little better, or allowed a hurting soul in turmoil to know they are not alone in this thing I refer to as a dark wilderness, trapped in the silence or in the horrible roar of PTSD.

After all, when all is said and done, isn't that why we have been placed on this ease the pain of others?

I wish you love and the knowledge to put it to good use.  To wipe away a tear, to snuggle close to someone who is hurting, to listen in silence, to realize what many have sacrificed for you and me.  They may still be walking, talking, and breathing, but sacrifice they did.  They will never be the same again.  I for one an grateful. I know without a doubt that I will never be the same again for having known them.


There is still time to contribute to our efforts to provide rescue dogs from a kill shelter for a wounded warrior with PTSD.  It will change a life, it will make a difference, it will rescue both.

Your tax deductible donation will be your parting gift to 2010!

Happy New Year to one and all.


Tuesday, December 28, 2010


"Begin doing what you want to do now. We only have this moment, sparkling like a star in our hand--and melting like a snowflake."
- Marie Beynon Ray


"What happens when we fail to understand that everything in our life counts? One danger might be that others attempt to take away the value and meaning of our experiences.

Donald Davis reminds us that our stories belong to us.

Thursday, December 23, 2010


Most  of you won't remember those little wooden stands we had as children that had colored pegs you had to hammer down.  This morning I do. Ever feel that way?  Like you have been hammered into a hole over and over again. Then once the peg was hammered just so far, you had to turn the stand over and hammer the peg back the other way.

Just two days before Christmas I have, as I like to say, been bended, folded, stapled and mutilated.  Ambushed, if you will. What prompted this is not important to this message.  Suffice it to say the outcome has been unsettling, disturbing, and to a very real degree numbing.

This morning at 2:30,  I decided, as if I had to decide, that I am sick and tired of drama. If only there were a delete key.  I am consistently totally aghast at people with their own agendas, never thinking or considering the repercussions on lives and hearts of others that might be affected. 

I want to hammer the heck out of those pegs or the wall or kick something or smash something.  But what do I do with Christmas?  The season of giving.  The season of loving, of forgiving.  What do I do with the music that brings so many memories alive once again? What about opportunities lost, lives lost, friends lost, moments lost, time lost?

This year my house is undecorated, seemingly isolated from the rest in the neighborhood.  I love this time of year, but sometimes the sadness and stress it evokes can crumble.

So for all of you who might find this time of year difficult too, perhaps we need to find our own pockets of peace while our Christmas closets remain closed and full of decorations and memories. Last night my pocket of peace was curling up in bed with three dogs and watching a chick flick. It helped having Mint Chocolate Chip Ice Cream! A suggestion from a friend which seemed to soothe a nasty migraine.

Trust me, we are not alone in our pain and losses and grief.  There are those who will have an empty chair at their Christmas dinner table.  Their losses are acute.  But perhaps, just perhaps if we look closely enough at those empty chairs we might just find the presence of angels, holding us up when we need it the most.

Today I will wrap a gift and try and forgive.  Forgetting will take longer.  I will have lunch with a friend.  I will get a pedicure.  I will hum, Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer.  I will remember the reason for the season. And I will remember this is life.

Merry Christmas to all...

“If it is not right do not do it; if it is not true do not say it.”
Marcus Aurelius

“The greatest way to live with honor in this world is to be what we pretend to be.”

Honest people are easily deceived.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010


If you are never scared, embarrassed or hurt, it means you never take chances.
- Julia Soul

The human contribution is the essential ingredient. It is only in the giving of oneself to others that we truly live.
-- Ethel Percy Andrus

There are people who make things happen, those who watch what happens, and those who wonder what happened.


I must say that there are those who will be first to say I am not the easiest person to get along with.  I challenge them to walk in my shoes.  I feel no great need to defend myself or spend time with lengthy explanations.  Suffice it to say, I have not gotten where I am today by standing around and watching the grass grow or being a follower.  And yes, I expect a great deal of people. Because people have a great deal to offer. Those suffering, struggling, strangling, and suffocating will be the first to tell you they could use help. When some stand idly by and simply observe and tell me they don't have time or that I push them too hard, it is difficult. This challenges me to heights and places I am unaccustomed to, and frankly don't understand.

Truth be known, had I not had a few pushes once in a while, I am certain I could not have achieved the tiniest particle of what I have.  Sometimes we stumble over the truth, and realize we should be doing something, but then hurry off as if it isn't really all that important. Goodness knows we are all so terribly busy with our own stuff, we have little time for fulfilling our purpose on this earth. (That doing good for others.) We have things to do, things to buy, things to keep up with the Jones', and things to occupy what little free time we have left.

Oscar Hammerstein said, "Love in the heart wasn't put there to stay; love isn't love 'til you give it away."  Love for our fellow man, love of family, love of country, love of strangers suffering, love of our warriors in harm's way, or a baby bird in the street or a stray unloved dog or cat. Our joy isn't found in things, it is in us! Just as this thing called love is in us.

A quote from Howard Aiken hit me in the face this morning. "Don't worry about people stealing your ideas.  If your ideas are any good, you'll have to ram them down people's throats." Love it, love it! 

Train a Dog Save a Warrior came about from one comment made by a soldier in a late night phone call to me.  He simply said, "I need help."  How many of us need help?  No, not with yard work or homework or housework.  I mean help.  A deep down inside need that you can't fix, find an answer for, and  one that  is eating you alive.  Bet more of you than are willing to admit.  Yes, we all need help.  And as they say, 'Good help is hard to find."

Do you answer the call when someone needs help?  Someone you don't know and have never seen before and perhaps will never see again.  Do you find the need to tell everyone what a good person you are and how much good you do or that you are too busy to help?  Or do you get in the trenches and shovel?  

So moral of the story is, yes, I challenge people.  I challenge them to be the best they can be, to help others in need, to realize that it is okay to set aside some of their 'stuff' for the greater good, to reach out to this world and let it know they are in it, and  help them become aware that they are needed on a plane much larger than they could ever imagine. 

Bottom line is if people don't like me for this, that is fine.  I don't care.  In the scope of things it is infinitesimal.

I ask for nothing more of others than they would ask for themselves if they were in trouble, in grief, in pain, in chaos, in adversity.  We all need someone to lean on, to fall on, to pick us up, to love us, to meet us halfway, to challenge us, to hold onto us when we don't think we can do it anymore.

I challenge you to be this kind of person.



The Book of Ecclesiastes

Thursday, December 16, 2010


Last week the shopping list tucked into my purse had fresh garlic, lemons, fish, shrimp, crab, oysters, tomatoes, fresh pasta, and parsley listed. What wasn't written on it was rest, sleep, breathe.

I had escaped to the beach.  I needed it to cleanse my spirit and wash away the nightmares, and the horrible, hateful injustices done to a dear friend, and the remnants of war on our young men and women, and to see if I could remember how to inhale once again. 

I stood on the 12th floor balcony of my condo overlooking the Gulf of Mexico.  The surf rolled in like layers of Austrian lace. In the background, over the roar of the waves, I could almost hear the Viennese Waltz. 

The sky was salmon colored with tinges of pink and ruffles. As I closed my eyes, solitude and comfort wrapped its arms around me,  a cool breeze started to peel away layers of distress. For as far as I could see in any direction, there were no people.  The sand was a pale beige, pristine in appearance, as it welcomed each wave with hope and gratitude.

The sun set and then rose again, and in between I breathed and rested and recovered and never wanted to come home again. I walked the jetties, and the bay, and the beach and became overwhelmingly envious of the birds and their routine and their ability to soar above the chaos and the noise.  One pelican satisfied with his morning seemed content to pose for me on a granite rock.  He was at peace.  You see pelicans don't have an agenda.  They aren't out to hurt anyone.  They aren't out to deceive and lie and torment and intentionally mame. 

The gumbo was heaven and the 70 degrees perfection. 

I discovered the beach smells different in the winter.  There are no crowds of children running in and out of the surf, no teenagers proving their prowess, nobody was there but 'Winter Texans' escaping the frigid weather in Michigan, Wisconsin, Minnesota, and Canada. I saluted the silence and the certainty of the gulf waters. The sublime stillness filled my heart with warmth, love, dreams, and  passion carried to me in the wind. 

I quivered as I watched the sun set and the moon rise.  I was haunted by the mystery of it all and overwhelmed by time slipping through my fingers like the sand layed out in front of me for miles and miles. I continue to search for stability and stable ground.  There is no map for this journey called life. But for this time, and in this place, I felt at peace.

The greatest lesson I have learned and a fundamental law of life is to simply be yourself.  In the rhythm of the waves and the wind and the blue sky filled with hungry 'Laughing Gulls,' crying out for a piece of bread, it became abundantly clear that those who are hate filled and angry and money hungry and vengeful are not worth my time.  They are sad, lonely souls who can only find solace by hurting others.  For them I am sorry. They control and manipulate and feel utterly misplaced when surrounded by kindness and giving.  They take no joy or pleasure in life and their hearts must be most haunted, resentful, and bitter.  Their gifts remain locked away, never to emerge. They never come into rhythm with life or others or love. Their shopping list is dark and full of suffering. What is written on your shopping list?


This week before Christmas, I wish for you freedom and peace and moments and pockets of peace.  Pockets where you find what truly is most important in this world and where you can restore yourself in moments of solitude and grace.

"As spring rain softens the earth with surprise,
May your winter places be kissed by light.

As the ocean dreams to the joy of dance,
May the grace of change bring you elegance.

As clay anchors a tree in light and wind,
May your outer life grow from peace within.

As twilight pervades the belief of night,
May beauty sleep lightly within your heart.

~John O'Donohue

Tuesday, December 14, 2010


~Dorothy Briggs

Fear of responsibility comes from a lack of self confidence. To paraphrase Ralph Waldo Emerson, life's shadows are often caused by our standing in our own sunshine.  So many people are jammed with negatives and limitations, and the belief that if they do it, it will be wrong or they might make a mistake or worse yet, be rejected.  This fear is accompanied by a conscious decision to not grow.  In other words, we want the glory but don't want to take the responsibility to work for it.  It is found in this country's requirement of instant gratification.  I know many who simply do not want to take responsibility for their daily lives.  Responsibility and growth is then stopped.  They don't do what they say they will do.  They have little integrity and life is solely about them. Parts are missing.

According to Dorothy Briggs, "Fear is faith - in the negative."

Wow!  That is worth repeating.  "Fear is faith - in the negative." If we bury our heads in the sand and dwell in fear, there isn't much hope.

We all catch glimmers of what we would like our life to be.  And we complain endlessly when it doesn't turn out like we wanted it to.  But how many of us take responsibility for our own lives and our own mistakes and our own messes.  And mostly, we don't take responsibility for staying stuck in places and spaces where we know we are not thriving. 

Secondary trauma and deep compassion fatigue has taken its toll on me.  I am taking responsibility for it.  But what to do about it is a different matter. Maybe sometimes we just need a shoulder to  lean on. Or someone to just listen to us, offering nothing more than an ear. Or maybe travel a different direction. 

I walked out of the podiatrist's office today grumbling about my aching feet and his parting comment about 'gravity and age.' Then as fate would have it, I turned the corner to the elevator and there was a man in a wheelchair with no legs. 

So today I will consider a good day because I have two aching feet and the wheels of my shopping cart all went in the same direction. 

I will make a resolution to continue to take responsibility for my life.  It is no one elses but mine, and whatever decisions I must make will be mine and mine alone.

To you and yours,

"Many Merry Christmases, many Happy New Years, unbroken friendships, great accumulations of cheerful recollections and affections on earth, and heaven for us all."
~Charles Dickens

Monday, December 13, 2010


A painting larger than life is sometimes all that is needed to break down the barriers and disturb the cobwebs. 

Sometimes there are those who get so full of themselves and their 'stuff' that they forget, take for granted, and disregard the truly important things in life. 

Today while wrapping Christmas packages and humming Christmas caroles, I was interrupted when sarcasm was thrown at me purposefully.  I wrestled with it, while trying to rise above it. The sad part is is that it was in the form of an email that was sent to others who had absolutely no need to be privy to this type of drivel. It was unprofessional and tasteless.

I believe I dislike sarcasm probably more than most anything.  It takes only a moment and one comment to trample a soul, or attempt to.  And I ask what is the point?  Is it necessary...does it make the person who said it feel better about themselves...or is the intent to make you feel bad about yourself.  Probably all of the above.  But it doesn't work.  It simply serves to show me who the person really is that finds it necessary to fling sarcasm like an arrow. Perhaps nothing is more discouraging than unappreciated sarcasm.  Today it was unappreciated. Perhaps it is that a 'sarcastic person has a superiority complex that can be cured only by the honesty of humility,' or so says Lawrence Lovasik.

We are all responsible for what we do and say.  Perhaps sarcasm keeps us from saying what we really think about someone.  Whatever the reason, whatever the goal, it is offensive. So today I remember why I am on this earth and I remember those I love and those that love me. There are many more things in this life than to spend time giving someone that kind of control over us.  Thank God for that.

I prefer finding joy in the moment, listening to the roar of peace, watching the pristine blue sky for an occasional white cloud, and returning again and again to that place of peace inside of me that can weather whatever anyone tosses at me. For in reality it is their problem, not mine.

Today I find shelter in my home.  A nest where there is intimacy and belonging and where my identity is fostered and my individuality is at rest. It is my place to discover my self, and that I am a pretty darn good person.  What others dig deep to find against me is their problem.  My private sanctuary is where I am nurtured and find sorrow for those who have lost this ability and this place.

Thursday, December 9, 2010


Failure is only the opportunity to begin again more intelligently.

- Henry Ford

Success seems to be largely a matter of hanging on after others have let go!
~William Feather


Amen to that!  I do believe I could have written the book! 

To paraphrase Rev. Angela L. Ying, picture for a moment if you will, how many doors we walk through each day.  Today, for me,  multiple trips through multiple doors - the pharmacy - the bank - the post office - the bedroom, the garden room, the kitchen, the living room, the front door, the car door, the garage door.  There are even revolving doors, automatic doors, elevator doors.  Seems as if our lives are full of going in and our of doors.

But what if we lived with closed doors?  What if we tried and tried to open doors and they remained closed and locked? What if others who have faced closed doors and finally managed to wiggle through, decided they would keep the door locked on you?  It is devastating when others, once the door is opened to them, refuse to help you open the door they struggled to get through.  Why do some people want to hinder others from the same opportunities which were opened for us.  This makes them feel safe, right ?

History, unfortunately, is full of examples of doors closing.  In fact, the caption from a Peanuts comic strip says it well when Snoopy tells Charlie Brown, "I love humanity -- it is people I cannot stand!"

It might behove us to begin listening to our lives.I am a survivor.  I hang on when kicked down.  I pick myself up, dust myself off, and start all over again.  Clearly, this is not to say that this is easy.  It is down right grueling. But we grow, we learn, we live through it.  And if we are lucky we are much better people for it. 

This is a photo of a yellow lab nobody wanted and who future was bleak at Animal Control Services.  He was evaluated by our trainer and found to be 'mellow and sweet.'  So we opened the door to this dog who had had so many doors closed on him.  During the evaluation he was taken to a grassy area to observe and scrutinize.  Needless to say the first thing he did was go to the bathroom.  The trainer went for the 'disposal bags' and cleaned up after him.  Next thing she knew this dog had picked up the poop bag and came and sat in a heel position at her left side....with the bag hanging from his mouth.  He followed her around, still clutching his bag.  Everyone was in hysterics.  It was as if he were looking for a trash can for his deposit!
Suffice it to say "Bagger" is now a part of the TADSAW PTSD Service Dog training program.  We figured, if he can do this as a puppy, he can learn pretty much anything.  Our warriors lose their keys, the remote, numerous things.  This dog managed to open his own door simply by doing what he does best...being himself!

That is all any of us can do!  Just be ourselves.  And along the way, if there is anyone we can help open a door, perhaps we will see that that truly is the right thing to do. 

Bagger has been introduced to another lab rescue, Murphy, for our TADSAW program.  Doors are opening for them and doors are opening for our wounded warriors with PTSD. 

Funny isn't it, how two dogs nobody wanted or loved or cared enough about to train are now happily bursting down the doors of a hellacious invisible injury, with the assistance of certified service dog trainers. 

They are preparing to change multiple lives for the better!  You can too.  Believe me, there is no better feeling on earth than helping someone else.  And if a dog can be rescued in the process, it is all the better. 

Who rescues who?


Please won't you consider supporting and/or sponsoring a wounded warrior and his or her service dog.  They need you to help them open their doors that are tightly locked, isolating them from the rest of the world.  The dog holds the key.

13423 BLANCO ROAD #218

Tuesday, November 30, 2010


"Yes, he is a lifesaver.  He has pulled me from such a deep slump.  I want to help spread the word.  So other guys that have to endure can know there may not be a direct answer, but the dogs and the relationship helps ease the pain and brighten our days.  Thank you for understanding. My dog, Kinglsey, won't leave my side. It brings me such happiness to know my buddy is by my side."


The late theologian and pastor Forrest Church says that grace means not only can we have the wonders of life - we already do. 

"Put away your shopping list of grievances and give yourself away."

Reading this, it occured to me that we all have our own 'shopping lists.' Lists of grievances, lists of bitterness, list of things we can't live without, lists of successes and lists of failures. Face it, we are a nation of consumers.  Comsumption defines us, and ultimately produces and projects who we are. Our lives are  defined by what we purchase.  Jewelry, houses, cars, the right PC or Mac, Blackberries or iPhones, Nike or New Balance, what we wear, even what airlines we fly.  And sometimes we are defined by what charity we support.  And when it comes to giving we grumble that we don't have the money, but we find it to spend on more stuff. We want to and expect to live 'happily ever after' because we have the right 'stuff'.

We work hard to have this right 'stuff'.  Yet in our pursuit, we sometimes need permission to play! Perhaps if we sit back and think about it we are, and already have, the stuff that dreams are made of.  Perhaps that boldness and power is already in us, just waiting for the magic to erupt.

So I say to you, don't let them take away who you are!  Stuff and things and people try to remake us.  We try our best to oblige, but in actuality we are once again being defined by someone else and their requirements and unrealistic requirements of us. 

So where do lifesavers come in?  They may just come in with wonder and whimsy and whoopsie daisies and pawprints walking beside us, guiding us, supporting us, comforting us and silently saying to us that "It is going to be alright.  I am here.  I believe in you."  The offering of permission to play, permission to delight in a good old fashioned belly laugh, permission to act silly and to not care what anyone else thinks just might be the right medicine.  Permission granted to cry and to be heard and understood!

Stuff is no antidote or guarantee against loneliness, pain, grief, anger, and fear.  In fact it serves only to dwarf us.  Perhaps the answer is found waiting.  Waiting at the front door when you walk in.  Whirling and twirling, as if the entire world revolves around your return home. A lifesaver you can snuggle, tell your deepest fears and secrets to, and a lifesaver that truly does save your life, more often than not.

With love, fear falls away. Saying 'yes' to love is saying 'no' to fear.





Penny's from Heaven Foundation, Inc.
13423 Blanco Road, Ste 218
San Antonio, TX 78216 

Sunday, November 28, 2010


"The humans have tried everything. Now it is up to us dogs!"
~101 Dalmatians~

You want to help and you aren't sure how. You find that the person home from war is not the same any more. You try everything. There are moments you are alone, frustrated, sad, angry and bitter.  It is as if when you said goodbye, you really said goodbye. 

A closed heart can become clogged. You try everything to open that heart but it just doesn't work.  You want to be kind and loving, but suddenly you find an edge to your voice, and it escalates into anger.  These are the times when a nonjudgmental friend is needed to keep our warriors balanced.  They need to be given permission to feel all of their emotions, including expressing anger in an appropriate manner.  They need someone to simply listen, as they express all of their issues with dignity and grace. Finding this solitary place, a spot where they feel safe, allows them to speak how they feel.  They can write it, shout it, pound it out, work with mental health professionals, go to the gym and work it out, but sometimes, once everything has been tried, it just might be time to leave it up to the dogs.

Seeking a place of healing is seeking a place of power.  With nonjudgmental acceptance our warriors can come back to center once again.  Maybe not the same center, but a new center. A center where they feel welcomed, where they can breathe, find energy, and loving resources around them.  Working things out, working things through, taking steps, with your best friend beside you, are steps toward healing where fears can be released, and a place where they can be gentle with themselves and hopefully find a place where their souls can be at peace.

With their dog by their side the warriors don't have to rush, push, or try to force things forward.  It doesn't work.  Not anymore.  Hurrying, or impatience, will not speed up the process, or their journey.  The answer, our warriors with PTSD need to fully immerse themselves in the moments. What better way to do that than with a dog who is the epitome of exemplifying being immersed in the moment. 

Thunder comes, storms come, and lightning flashes.  And it is frightening.  But storms don't last forever and with a dog by your side the damage can be minimal.  And perhaps, just perhaps, when humans have tried everything, it is at that precise moment that it is up to the dogs!


"Just as nature plays out her storms, sometimes with violence, sometimes with gray days, sometimes with a gentle cleansing rain, we have storms in our lives, storms in our soul.  Storms are part of life, part of growth, part of the journey."
~Melodie Beattie~




13423 BLANCO ROAD, STE. 218
SAN ANTONIO, TX 78248  (under construction)

Saturday, November 27, 2010


"Every man dies, but not every man lives."

“When you feel like you’re running into a dead-end, don’t think of it as the end of the road, think of it as God giving you a chance to turn in another direction and have a new beginning.”

Once in a while right in the middle of an ordinary brings you a fairy tale. Sometimes these fairy tales are huge and burst in unannounced.  Sometimes they creep in quietly almost unnoticed.  And then sometimes you might find yourself sitting in the middle of one and quite simply don't know what to do.  Because you too  have your own demons to extinguish, or deal with, or kick to the side, or sock in the teeth.  Who is willing to listen?  Who is there for you? Who is your 'Battle Buddy?"

I understand PTSD. I get it.  I live it. I fight it.  I hate it.  I can't control it. I pray, I rail out against it, and I dread it. The hardest thing is that many friends just don't get it.  I listen to 'my' Soldiers and Marines and hear them.  I hear their cries for help, the pain in their eyes, their almost futile frustration and their sense that it 'doesn't feel right to be happy.'  They feel lost, isolated, disassociated, and define their PTSD as a 'scar, just like a tatoo, that is there for the rest of their lives.' 

It isn't something you 'get over.' There is a book I find solace in and refer back to frequently, "How Can It Be All Right, When Everything Is All Wrong? by Lewis B. Smedes.  "Put it as plainly as it can be put: we need to suffer some of the cussed wrongness of life in order to find its deep rightness.  We have to feel pain we do not want to feel, carry burdens we do not want to carry, put up with misery we do not want to put up with, cry tears we do not want to shed. If we feel no hurt now, we will, when all is done, be the most miserable of all people. Ultimately, at the end of the game, when we cash in our chips, it will be all right with us only if we have been hurt with life's wrongness." 

As Smedes says, 'To suffer is to put up with things you very much want not to put up with.....if you badly want to be rid of something and it will not go away, you are suffering."  It is often, for our warriors, a mental anguish, a desperate ache, visions of 'hell' that won't go away.  Somehow this suffering has bound us together.  Our pain, our grief, our hurt that we have no power to make go away. By all appearances we are stuck with it.  As William Shakespeare said, "Out, out damned spot."  But this spot won't go away. 

It was Thanksgiving a couple of days ago.  My house was full of warriors bound in brotherhood, all victimized by PTSD.  I suffer with them because I choose freely to let their hurts hurt me. I bring it on myself.  And yes it is my doing. I have walked, eyes wide open, into their pain. 

They don't know this.  Nor do they have to.  Nor is it important that that they do.  It is what it is. I like to think of it as my gift. My understanding to a small degree, what they are forced to endure, perhaps makes me better equipped to help, sharing, to a small degree, their pain. 

 As they walked in the door of a home smelling of roasted turkey, arms wide open, I entered their embrace and heard two single words whispered by each into my ear, "Hi Mom." To me there are no more beautiful words.  To me these two words make the suffering worthwhile.  For a while I am their mother and they are my sons.  Son, men, warriors that I understand.  Warriors that I love.  Warriors that for some reason find comfort in me.  I wonder why I was chosen.  I wonder why me.  But then it doesn't really matter does it?  What does matter is that we find comfort in each other. And in this big old messed up world what else is there? 

To see these young men, fighting in the aftermath of multiple deployments against PTSD that visits them every moment of the day and night, sometimes the only and the best comfort - the one single thing that understands them is their dog.  This I understand.  To simply put your hand out and that dog is there, no matter what, can, at least, for that time, make everything alright. 

To be lucky enough to locate someone to hurt with is all that is needed. 

Sitting on a sunny, crisp November day with your best friend is heaven.


13423 BLANCO ROAD ~STE 218


What better gift could you give a warrior than someone to hurt with?

Monday, November 22, 2010


I posted this a year ago this week.  It seems appropriate to post it again.  I hope it reminds you of what is, or should be, most important this Thanksgiving week!

I tell this story to let our soldiers with the invisible wounds know they are not alone and their service and sacrifices do not go unnoticed. And I tell it for you. So that when you go to sleep at night, you will remember Allen Hill and the price of freedom.

Sometimes things happen in our lives that cause us to stumble and temporarily be thrown off balance. We grumble about the heat and the inconveniences of a freeway traffic jam, and we worry about the unimportant and mundane occurrences in our everyday lives that appear to us to be so earthshaking and insurmountable.

And then sometimes things happen that allow us to reach the center of what is most important. We suddenly awaken to what people we have never met, in a place we have never heard of, endured and will endure for the remainder of their lives to keep us free. Everyday, in every way, these American heroes lay their lives on the line to protect us. I find that extraordinarily humbling. And I find it remorseful that they aren’t appreciated more for their service and sacrifices.

It was a late 107 degree July Monday afternoon in San Antonio. I drove to a psych hospital where twenty soldiers are undergoing treatment for the invisible wound called Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD.) I had met many, many soldiers at Walter Reed and Brooke Army Medical Center with this injury, but none had effected me quite like Allen. Allen’s story first captured the heart of America when he and his wife were on a national television program focusing on the devastating effects of PTSD and how his service dog, Frankie, from Puppies Behind Bars in New York alerts him to his debilitating and reoccurring flashbacks by jumping on his lap and licking his face until he focuses on the present once again and the unspeakable horrors of war are temporarily released, at least for a few minutes before striking again.

I had had the opportunity of spending some time with Allen’s wife Gina and their two kids the day before. She kindly invited me to visit her husband the next day. Little did I know the impact simply meeting him would have on my life.

As Allen approached the large round dining table in the cafeteria at the hospital, I noticed we were surrounded by families visiting loved ones, small children who had been horrifically sexually abused, and gang members looking somewhat lost. As soon as Allen entered the room, Frankie became alert, tail wagging. You could almost hear her saying, “Finally, there you are.”

Allen sat down with his dinner tray of chopped beef and rice and mixed vegetables. Frankie was in position, under the dining room table with both paws and head resting on Allen’s big red shoes. She waited! She waited for the man she listened to. Listening for that moment when she needed to alert him back to the real world once again.

I introduced myself and spoke with this soldier who had sacrificed his future for me and others like me. With a lump in my throat, I extended my hand which he shook with a handshake that told me a lot about this man. I told him what wonderful sons he had and that he should be very proud. This seemed to please him. I mentioned I hoped he was a little better every day and that therapy was helping. We talked about ‘baby steps’ and how talking to a counselor would help him release the horrors of war and that while they would never go away they would lessen to a degree and he would grow to recognize the triggers to these flashbacks easing their intensity somewhat. He told me that he had not shared everything with his therapist. I asked why and he simply said, “It is more than she could take. There were days I didn’t think I would live.” I told him, “She can take it, she can take it. She is trained to.” His eyes told me that those words feel on deaf ears. He wanted to spare her the pain of what he endured. This is the kind of man Allen is or maybe he couldn’t relive it one more time.

Gina and I talked for a while as Allen silently ate his dinner. But her eyes kept moving from my face to his. Ever vigilant, Gina quietly said, “He is beginning to have a flashback.” I turned and looked at an American hero who was staring blankly into space. A space filled with unspeakable horrors that come back to him without warning, blacking out all reality of the present. Gina stood and went to stand beside him. Allen is never combative in these flashbacks but his eyes and face tell the story. First his eye lids started to quiver and then twitch. His eyes never off of the horizon of a place and time we will never know. Then his face contorted somewhat. Gina, patting his cheeks and calling his name realized she needed help from a dog that knew exactly what to do.

Frankie was given one of eighty commands she learned at Puppies Behind Bars and placed both front paws on Allen’s chest and began licking and nudging his face. Literally in two to three seconds, Allen blinked and returned to us for a brief time, until it happened about ten minutes later.

This is his life. This is Gina’s life. This is the price of freedom, the freedom that allowed Allen to get up and bring back three pieces of strawberry cheesecake, one for each son and one for himself.

Allen may not be perfect, but in his imperfections, he taught me that the bottom line is how we deal with the tough stuff, what and who we passionately and truly love, and that people are not defined by their limitations. In Allen’s beautiful black eyes, I saw my own life reflected and wondered on the way home how I would cope in similar circumstances. I was keenly aware of those times in my life when I have needed to be carried – when I just couldn’t do it anymore – and who was there for me.

Allen’s story is not so unique. Thousands of our wounded heroes are returning from combat with the same injury. Glimpses into their lives are full of struggles and coping and agony and despair. They feel excluded, isolated, and face unspeakable terrors at every corner at every moment of the day.

We all need someone willing to go looking for us when we’re lost. We all want to find our way home again and sometimes it just isn’t that easy. “When I came home, I had to learn to be an American again.” Occasionally the flashbacks cause him to search his house for insurgents. It is then that Frankie takes Allen outside of his flashbacks and panic attacks into the here and now in a matter of seconds. Without Frankie the flashbacks could last hours.

At the end of the day what I write about turns out to deal with my deepest concerns and values. The important part is making the story powerful by expressing my authentic emotions. I write from my heart. Tonight I write about Allen.

Charles M. Schultz said, “A whole stack of memories never equal one little hope.” For Allen and Gina and the kids, I have hope. And Frankie - well Frankie gives me goosebumps! Observant and ever vigilant Frankie teaches us that nuzzling can make a huge difference. So with Frankie the story is just beginning. This dog provides a new meaning to ‘rest in peace.’ With this dog under his arm Allen can find rest, and peace and sleep and perhaps life again. Not the same life, but life.

Frankie can convey encouragement, support, empathy, affection, humor and can elicit it in Allen. The abilities of both are enhanced by the presence of the other. Frankie is not there to talk about how Allen got in this predicament, but to focus on hope and the future.

So I ask you to remember Allen and Frankie. Hear what life is telling you. Let your heart guide you. It whispers - so listen closely. By risk there is more to be gained than lost. Allen risks life minute by minute every day. With Frankie and Allen’s courageous companionship and allegiance to each other they just might be kindred spirits. Observing, I have learned to acknowledge that your soul mate helps you be your best self…so that your soul can do the most for the world. And sometimes your soul mate just might be a yellow lab named Frankie.

Allen has already done his best for the world. I like to think that what happened to Allen happened for us. For us to learn to appreciate our freedom and all the young men and women like him who sacrifice for us as we go about our daily duties completely unaware of their existence.

Allen and Frankie showed me that waiting for the ‘right time’ we spend much of our lives waiting. Allen fought so that we have this freedom to make a choice, to make a stand, to make our lives brilliant with joy and happiness, to make our lives count. For this I will be eternally grateful to this man I met today. I would miss him had we never met.

On the way home I realized that whatever comes from my heart has been given to me as a gift. I must give it honor. Allen will eventually heal to some degree from the past and I believe people who are fortunate enough to meet him will accept the gifts he has to offer their futures. Allen may not know it but our lives are now woven together, for on this hot Texas afternoon our dreams collided. For him the battle will never end. War ends but the battles don’t. For Gina and Allen love doesn’t fit into a nice shiny mold. But it fits.

 Your tax deductible contribution of any amount will go toward sponsorship of another team such as Allen and Frankie. 

Full sponsorship is 1,000.00
Our Warriors with PTSD need your help.

Thursday, November 11, 2010


Veteran's Day 2010 

"Those who are lifting the world upward and onward are those who encourage more than criticize."
~Elizabeth Harrison

" There are people who take the heart out of you, and there are people who put it back."
~Elizabeth David

Today I awoke thankful to be an American.  Thankful to have our military protecting us.  Thankful for those who have given all so that we have the freedoms we have. 

I thought of the two years I spent in Seoul, Korea. If anything were to have changed my life completely, it was my time there.  It was here that my eyes and my heart opened.  The DMZ (Demilitarized Zone) wasn't far away, and it was an eye opener. 

We lived in a 13 floor apartment building on the economy, not post housing.  The electricity went out daily. Water had to be carried up 13 flights of stairs by our housemaid, Miss Kim.  Carried it in a bucket on her head, so that we might flush the commode.  I thought of the roaches and rats we had to trap everyday in the kitchen.  I thought of the Korean military police who stood outside our apartment door armed with machine guns every time there was a Korean soccer match in the stadium directly below us, to protect the President of Korea from being assassinated.  We couldn't come or go.  If there was a breach at the DMZ we were locked in our apartment in the dark for hours and sometimes days until it was safe to leave.  I remember standing on the beaches where General McCarthy had stood.  I remember what it was to have my freedom taken away. 

I wonder how many Americans have any idea how grateful they should be to our military in harm's way at this very moment, so that we may begin making preparations for Thanksgiving dinner with friends and family. I wonder if Americans feel the depth and intensity of other family's grief when this Thanksgiving one of their sons, or daughters, or husbands, or brothers or fathers won't be at the table. I wonder if they have ever looked into the vacant emotionless face of a wounded warrior returning from the hell of war to find himself or herself void of emotion and living in constant fear.  I wonder.

Upon leaving Seoul and arriving in Hawaii, the culture shock was horrific.  We were there three weeks to get our bearings, before returning to the continental United States.  Arriving tan and healthy looking, nobody could know that we were not the same family that had left.  Nor would we ever be.  It changes you.  It can't be helped. Lives change dramatically.

Today I honor our military.  I respect our military.  The courage of these young men and women is overwhelming.  I wish you could see it, feel it, absorb it and take it into your heart.  With them my heart bursts with sadness, happiness, and pride all at the same time.


Today I ask if you are living a life of action or reaction

I ask you to help us support our wounded warriors returning to us with the demons of PTSD.  Our TADSAW (Train a Dog ~ Save a Warrior) Support/Service dogs are making a difference. 
Our military tell us everyday. 
The need is huge and the demand growing daily as the word spreads. 


 "This dog has made all the difference in my life.  I can go to my kids soccer games. I can drive to the store. Every soldier with PTSD could benefit from a Support/Service Dog."

Your generous tax deductible contribution can be sent to:




Wednesday, November 10, 2010


I suppose everyone longs to be listened be heard. We try to find the right words to convey what is in our hearts and in our guts. We struggle to be understood. Sometimes it doesn't work. These are the times we need to be heard the most. When we are tired. When we hurt. When we are lost. When we simply need someone's arms around us to let us know we are loved and that they understand.

Sometimes there is a deep longing for a place called peace. Today I can't find it.

I suppose when it comes right down to it, we are all alone a great deal of the time. There are those times of struggle when we reach out for help and there is no one there to catch us as we are falling.  These are scary times.  But if we're lucky, sometimes the road rises to meet us and we continue the march. 

"When we speak from the heart, we long for an ear to hear us, and we all have experienced that down feeling when we perceive ourselves as written off or misunderstood."

~ Harriet Lerner

I am knee deep in  "LONE SURVIVOR" by Navy Seal Marcus Luttrell.  The eyewitness account of Operation Redwing and the lost hereos of Seal Team 10. It is a rivoting narrative of heroism and endurance against impossible odds. The harrowing account of survival in the mountains of Afghanistan, surrounded by hundreds of Taliban rebels.

On today the eve of Veteran's Day, I think of those warriors who come home a different person.  Come home to a family who expects them to be the same as when they left.  This is not feasible.  This is not reality.  They have faced reality head on. They have faced death and hell head on.  For this I thank them and say to them, "I hear you."

I quote Marcus Luttrell in his final chapter of the book, NEVER FORGET"My days are relentless.  I think about Afghanistan hourly, playing the scenario over and over in my head until I am on the verge of insanity.  I would give anything to have my friends back and life the way it used to be - seeing their faces, hearing their voices, and hell even the way they smell.  I know that it may sound trivial to a lot of people, but it's the little things that I miss the most about all of them.  It was my greatest honor to serve with these men on and off the battlefield.  They died doing what they loved, protecting this great country of ours, and in my eyes there is no greater sacrifice than that."

To all of our veterans and current military in harm's way on this day before Veteran's Day...we are here, we are thinking of you, praying for you, and we know that first and foremost you have our backs.  Thank you for your service and your sacrifices.  You are not, nor ever will be, forgotten!

I hear you and I am listening. My wish to you all is that you find your special place of peace.

John Amos ~ Rest in Peace