Tuesday, January 5, 2010
Photo Courtesy America's Vet Dogs
He called me at 8:00 pm last night. A stranger. A soldier from Ft. Bliss. A soldier with PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder). He called to tell me me about his three month old puppy, and how he was seeking help on how to get this pup trained to be of additional help to him emotionally and mentally. But perhaps what he found is that he was seeking comfort.
C. shared how his pup is simply there for him when no one else is, when no one else understands and when no one else listens - when the rest of the world seems to be spinning out of control. "His ears perk up and he cocks his head and he understands, as I tell him my fears. And he doesn't judge me." You see this puppy is everything a friend should be, someone who is simply there for you when you need them the most. Words don't need to be exchanged. It is a love and a place where words aren't necessary.
As I listened, my heart became involved. I thanked him for his sacrifices. We talked about the crippling effects of the invisible wounds from PTSD, the ravages of war and how I do understand he is living through hell, every second, every moment of the day. "Saying thank you isn't sufficient, but being here for you is what I can give back to you for your service and sacrifices."
It was then that I was blessed with a most precious gift by a young man I have never met, but knew all too well, for he is but one of tens of thousands of young men and women returning from Iraq/Afghanistan with PTSD orTBI (Traumatic Brain Injury). As C. told me of his anger management and trust issues, he said, "I can tell from your voice that you care and that you understand." I heard tears in his words and a break in his voice and wanted to hold him and simply say "I understand and I am here for you. I won't leave you. I promise."
Suddenly this soldier who had called to ask a simple question about training his dog, progressed to a young man sharing, with a total stranger, the terror of flashbacks, his fear of windows without drapes or blinds, and how he held his best friend's head in his lap, as he took his last breath from an IED blast.
His life is full of pain, confusion, anger, fear, and mental torture. Many of his friends don't understand, yet suffer from the same thing. Some choose not to tell anyone they have PTSD, for fear they will be treated as badly, as is he.
What prompted this young man to call me? Well I know the answer and you most likely do as well. Sometimes we are taken by the hand when we least expect it and find grace at the end of the road. C. was sent to me. It is as uncomplicated as that. And me, well I am honored and blessed.
I led him to VetDogs in NY. I will be sending him an application to fill out for a potential service dog that can be there for him and assist in a myraid of ways. This dog 'will have his back', will wake him from flashbacks, block him from sleepwalking into danger, be his anchor, his rock, be his lifeline to a future where fear isn't as readily available and where C. can recover a sense of control and strength. PTSD will always be with him and may rear its terrifying head when he least expects it, but he will not be alone.
"VetDogs, Veteran's K-9 Corps," will be there answering the call as soldiers like C. 'return wounded but unbowed.' They have served our country with honor and integrity, and now it is VetDog's turn to serve them." www.vetdogs.org
Fyodor Dostoyevski said, "Taking a new step, uttering a new word is what people fear most." But when you have a friend by your side, someone who loves you unconditionally, that step is a step forward, a step toward a future that just possibly won't be so tormented.
C. will recover a sense of possibility with a new best friend by his side, as he learns to not despair or drown in sorrow. And as promised, I will be there for him. Because sometimes knowing that you are not alone and that someone, somewhere, understands is a happy ending.
For C. hope just might be found at the end of a leash, for the difference between winning and losing is who has the will. C. has the will.
For me, well once again life steps in and as I have learned there are no guarantees and that sometimes the best we can do is to start to repair the brokenness, one person at a time.
So this morning I send out a prayer that C. won't have to do it alone. People decide to be courageous. C. decided that last night when he picked up the phone and called me.