Tuesday, August 31, 2010


Cracks in the armor! We all have them.  We all fight against them.  And sometimes the fight seems endless and all consuming, and, yes, sometimes hopeless. 

The written words of a soldier with multiple physical problems resulting from war, as well as acute PTSD, constantly ring in my head.  "I'm going out of my mind. Nothing seems to be making any sense. I'm all alone and no one to lean on. I want out!  I want out! Do you hear me screaming? This mess I can't deal with anymore and it echos deep within my soul. Tomorrow, I won't remember a thing and my mind is trying, but nothing is coming....."

This is the sound of PTSD.  It is here you see the rough edges of life after war. 

We're all pretty much scared all the time.  There is no shame in that.  But when we're laughing on the outside and dying on the inside we need to be rescued.  Sometimes our rescuer is a dog.  A dog that will give us the confidence and courage and ability to face the future. A dog that somehow just slipped in and made us open our hearts when no one else could.

Wounded warriors with PTSD often find comfort in isolation.  A PTSD Support Dog in essence becomes a band aid for loneliness.  The dog, whose mission it is to help, has to be fed, walked, and attended to.  More importantly this dog needs love and gives love.  With a dog, the warrior with PTSD finds a secret comfort and a private peace.  Sometimes a dog's head on a warrior's knee can heal many human hurts.

One soldier said, "The fight doesn't stop when you get home.  It just begins."  One statistic is that one third of the wounded are coming back with PTSD/TBI.  Some are getting by with a little help from their friends.  Some are literally being saved by them.  The fear and anxiety producing results of war keep our warriors denying their emotions and ultimately denying reality.  Their journey toward recovery is one step at a time.  These small steps are easier with a nonjudgmental friend by their sides.

Gracie and 'her' favorite soldier, Michael,  fell in love at first sight.  Their bond is deep.  So much so that one of Michael's goals is to get a dog of his own and train it to be a therapy dog to help other soldiers, as Gracie has helped him. 

Sometimes the pain of this reaction to a traumatic experience has no name.  But a dog doesn't know what PTSD is and doesn't care. They love unconditionally.  "It's no trick loving somebody at their best.  Love is loving them at their worst."  PTSD Support Dogs love our wounded warriors at their worst. Tom Stoddard hit the nail on the head when he said this.  "We are all survivors of one sort of another and the reason we are on this earth is to help ease the pain of others.  And in so doing we help ourselves." 

The dogs are the catalysts to helping heal the cracks in the armor of our wounded warriors and placing flashlights in places where they can find them, as they enter a new world that once was called home.  But they don't have to be its prisoners. 

These are not just a war stories, but  lessons in character, patriotism and devoted love to their country and to a relationship with a dog - a relationship that is defined by trust and sustained through grief, loss and change.

"Pain is inevitable - but suffering optional."
M. Scott Pick - The Road Less Traveled
With luck and alot of work, the wounded warrior comes to realize that perhaps strtength doesn't reside in having never been broken, but in the courage required to grow strong in the broken places.

"Thinking is not the enemy - overthinking is."  Julia Cameron

Tuesday, August 24, 2010



What have you done for freedom today?  We all have things to do, people to see. We are busy.  We work, we travel, we take a rest.  But how often do we think of our warriors who will, and have, and are walking through fire for us and this great country.  Some of our greatest citizens routinely make the ultimate sacrifice for America and its people.  For us they go into the worse conditions, at the worse time, and make the biggest difference.  Throughout history our young men and women have gone and done the unpopular, the impossible and the unachievable. Only to return home and ready themselves to do it again.

Our Marines, Sailors, Airmen and Soldiers are there for us.  They come home and many need help.  One  Penny's From Heaven Foundation Therapy and PTSD Support Dog and his 'dad,' Iraq war veteran Troy Yocum, are spending sixteen months hiking seven thousand miles across this great country to bring awareness and financial assistance to the plight of many of our warriors returning home. With Emmie, his Penny's From Heaven Foundation Therapy and PTSD Support Dog, by his side, he took the first step of his sixteen month quest on April 17, 2010.

Families fighting the homefront are not fighting alone. They have Emmie - a warrior's best friend. Emerson Elaine Eskridge, the Superdog, was born in Louisville, KY on June 19th, 2007. She is the smallest of the six original and distinct breeds of dog from Japan called Shiba Inu (柴犬).

She is a small, agile dog, with an abundance of energy, that copes very well with mountainous terrain and trails. Her safety is a main concern from the crew, during very hots days. If temperatures rise, then Emmie takes it nice and easy by riding in the RV that follows SPC Yocum. Of course she can't stand this. She always wants to be out front to lead the hike. Some think that she was born for the purpose of hiking across America.  Just perhaps she was also born to bring awareness and to promote the benefits of PTSD Support Dogs for our returning warriors with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

Our soldiers are ready at a moments notice. They don't pick their battles, but when called to service they respond. Keeping our enemies at bay, our heroes are champions of freedom, not eager for war, but willing to sacrifice. One for the need of many. Many veterans live by this military code and have done so when our country needed it the most.

While one soldier may miss holidays, a birthday, or a birth of a child, others may suffer mentally and develop anxiety, depression or PTSD. Some also sacrifice by being injured by road side bombs, being shot or taking shrapnel. Some pay the ultimate price.

We ask a lot of our men and women in uniform. Who can they call on in their time of strife? Our American Heroes are fighting just as hard at home as they do overseas. Troy and Emmie are literally putting one foot in front of the other, crossing America to reach people and help spread the importance of helping our military families, one step at a time.

Monday, August 23, 2010


They go into the worst conditions, at the worst time, and make the biggest difference. They are our Marines, Sailors, Airmen, and Soldiers.  They will continue, and they will succeed.  For them there is no option. While they are fighting, there is also an unseen group of family members and friends that wait, worry, cry and cheer when, in one of those moments of grace that life gives us, they return. These are the pillars of strength behind our warriors. 
"They also serve who only stand and wait." ~John Milton 

Army wives join the military.  They are not commissioned, nor do they enlist.  When they say "I do" they most likely don't realize how much they really will be doing. Anniversaries are missed, births of children, and holidays.  They wait, struggling with  keeping a marriage alive and combating loneliness.  Military wives support and encourage each other, like other female friends can't quite grasp.  These are lifelong relationships that often last longer than some marriages.

On weekends, wounded warriors, who have spent the week in therapy sessions or awaiting doctor appointments, sleep late.  The wives gather in the living room or kitchen or on the patio of the Fisher House at BAMC.  Some are in their pajamas and the kids are in strollers, or playing in the courtyard in the shadow of the Center for the Intrepid.  The soldiers have told me repeatedly that having a therapy dog visit, makes them happy.  Not just because they enjoy them, but because it brings a little bit of home to their children, some of whom have been removed from the only home they ever knew.  Like any child they ask mom and dad for a pet, but obviously that isn't realistic.  So for a little while a therapy dog offers a sense of normalcy to some extraordinary children.

Most all of the kids love the dogs.  They form circles around them, squat and reach out their arms to pet her.  Seldom do they have to be reminded to give 'gentle touches.'  They seem to know.  They also take pride in sharing with their friends and encouraging them and supporting them, very much like their mothers support each other.  They are kind and courteous.  They have been subjected to things other children haven't, nor ever will be.  Their lives too will never be the same.  They, like their mothers, have had to grow up; all too fast.

With flags, we honor freedom in our yards and in our homes and even in our wardrobe.  But I wonder, do we acknowledge, appreciate, or recognize the wives and children of our deployed military and their commitment and their staggering grace.

Thursday, August 19, 2010


They served because we asked them to.  They served because they wanted to.  They come back because it is their time.  But often a friend has to be left behind.

Conversations of great significance are often held with this friend.  Frightening and lonely moments, far from family and friends, are shared. MRE's (Meals Ready to Eat) are sacrificed so the dog will not go hungry. Each being there for the other. No matter what!

Our warriors leave the life they knew, hoping that they will make a difference, because it is the right thing to do.  War becomes the new normal to them.  Home is somewhere far away.  To find a friend who needs you as much as you need him is a gift in the scorching heat and sand of the desert. Often this gift is frowned upon and considered a health risk and a distraction.  And all too often the results are not pretty.

But then there are times when a stray dog jumps into a warrior's life full throttle - a warrior who unwaveringly has gone into harm's way.  Some in authority turn their heads, because perhaps the presence of these creatures also in some way comforts them. 

Suddenly, without even realizing it, there is a bond, a history, a relationship, and a commitment. For many the dogs protect the soldiers sanity. As beautifully stated in From Baghdad, With Love, "When you spent your entire career on the fringes of violence, the dogs helped remind you that you were still human."

These dogs are making a difference to our fighting men and women. When the day is done and survived, their best friend is there waiting.   There are organizations stateside helping them to bring a few of these dogs home.  But it is costly in both time and money. 

How can you put a price tag on a friend?

"But he keeps licking and squirming and wiggling around...I liked the way he felt in my hands...I liked not caring about getting home or staying alive or feeling warped...just him wiggling around in my hands, wiping all the grime off my face."

From Baghdad, With Love
~Jay Kopelman


Please help us help!


Your TAX DEDUCTIBLE contribution of any size is appreciated and will go directly to helping the warriors in need of a PTSD Support Dog.



One very early morning, I received a phone call. The voice at the other end was trembling, as a  man whispered, "I need help."

This American soldier, living in a cabin in the woods in Pennsylvania, needed help getting his little dog, his "lifeline, his battle buddy," certified to be his service dog for severe PTSD. I spoke with him for an hour and gave him what information I could to assist.

I encouraged him, I listened to him, and to a great degree I understood him.

He had been deployed three times, was awarded two Purple Hearts, two Bronze Stars, two Silver Stars, and acute PTSD. Today and everyday, he is unable to leave the protection and isolation of the woods. He had gone into isolation to hide, to heal. Whether he knew it or not, he was taking the first step to saving his own life. Staying in his 'bunker' would lead to more depression, and ultimately, he might not be able to get out by himself. He had tiptoed out just long enough to ask for help. And all because of the love of a little dog. 

This twenty pound dog affords him the courage to go into public, to be visible to the world, to not crawl back into his 'bunker' alone. The only thing he was asking for, after all he sacrificed, was to be able to take his 'battle buddy' into places like Walmart to make him feel safe. Safe from the demons, terrors, flashbacks, and mental 'replays' in which he sees, hears, feels, smells, tastes every aspect of the war he can't leave behind.

He doesn't know how to be happy. There is no joy in his life. For him there is little reason to live, except for this little dog that carries the leash that, hopefully, will guide him out of his 'bunker.'

The Marine Corps phrase of "we take care of our own" is literal. Perhaps only a veteran can walk a veteran out of his 'bunker'. Perhaps in this case this veteran is a little dog named Buddy.

After all this warrior did to protect us, is this too much to ask?


In this program, shelter dogs will be specially selected, rescued, and obedience trained for a donation to a warrior wsith Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, as a Comfort/Support Dog.

Your contribution will make a difference.

$250.00 will help sponsor our first dog for a very special Marine with severe PTSD and two TBI's (Traumatic Brain Injuries).

Please send to:




Thank you!

Wednesday, August 18, 2010


To a returning combat veteran with PTSD, 'going to their bunker' means going into a walled off and isolated situation that gives them space alone, away from other people to include their friends and family, when they are feeling particularly triggered.  How long they stay in the bunker is for as long as they have to.  They will come out when they are ready and not a moment before.

It is simply protective isolation.  It has been likened to putting yourself into 'time out'. Time out from the world, away from people and stimulation, both bad and good.  This 'time out' will be over when it's over. Only they can decide when that might be. It could be a day or a year.

Triggers like fireworks, noise, smoke, crowds  or situations that make them lose control, can force the veteran to seek out his or her 'bunker.'  Things such as an argument with a spouse or child, loosing their temper, lack of sleep, flashbacks, nightmares, anger, alcohol and substance abuse, medical issues, sexual trauma, depression and being constantly depressed and hyper vigilant, are all symptoms that can lead to 'the bunker.'

Then sometimes the warrior with PTSD takes a friend into the bunker with him.  Sometimes this friend is a dog. Such was the case with Manny.  With him, it was obvious that stress reduction techniques and coping skills helped him regain control along with the help of Gracie his PTSD Support Dog.

Manny adored her.  When she was there in his arms there was no fear, no memories of war, no grief, no anxiety - only Gracie. His facial muscles relaxed as he held her close and snuggled this one thing that asked nothing of him.  She calmed him as nothing else did. His avoidance and isolation lessened as each week he looked forward to once again spending time with Gracie.

We as humans are social creatures and sometimes in isolation we wither and sometimes we go into a isolation of a bunker and never come out.  The ones who get help come out and the ones who don't, often don't come out.



In this program, shelter dogs will be specially selected, rescued, and obedience trained for a donation to a warrior wsith Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, as a Comfort/Support Dog.

Your contribution will make a difference.

$250.00 will help sponsor our first dog for a very special Marine with severe PTSD and two TBI's (Traumatic Brain Injuries).

Please send to:

Thank you!

Tuesday, August 17, 2010


"Healing is a coming to terms with things as they are, rather than struggling to force them to be as they once were, or as we would like them to be."
~Kabat-Zinn, Ph.D.


Stephanie was in the rehab gym when I first met her with Gracie, my therapy dog. Her severely burned hand was being treated and massaged by one of the occupational therapists. One side of her face had been burned and her ear disfigured. Her leg had also been injured and was immobilized by a fixator with external rods.

This brave young woman had been building a bridge with her fellow soldiers in Balad.  This made her a pretty  decent target for the insurgents, and the suicide bomber that targeted the motor pool. Even with the grenade launcher she carried, it was still too late. She was pulled from her burning vehicle by a comrade.

Scratching Gracie's tummy,  twenty five year old Stephanie talked of her two tours of duty in Iraq, and the very real possibility of losing her foot, I couldn’t help but think of the ‘role models’ our young women have that are about the same age, glamorizing alcohol, drugs, fashion, and expensive cars, while this young woman is hoping to get back to Iraq for a third deployment to fight for our freedom. In this country that often idolizes the wrong things, the wrong values, Stephanie is the true hero and without question should be a role model for all of us.

With a golden stuffed puppy dog next to the pillow on her hospital bed this young woman defined courage as she defied the odds. She hadn’t lost hope of keeping her foot,  as she said, “It is just a foot. It’s not a big deal. Others have lost much more. At least I know I can walk again.” As she uttered those words,  I was reminded of a thousand dollar pair of shoes I had just seen in the window of a very expensive designer shoe store in Houston.

She continued petting Gracie, and asked if she could show her something. She struggled to reach under her bed for several small boxes. She opened each one carefully, and showed Gracie four Saint Christopher pendants for each of the children, belonging to the soldier who had saved her life. For him, a beautiful gold pocket watch. Her only concern was that there wasn’t enough room on the back of the watch to say all she wanted to say to him. “How do you thank someone for saving your life?”  Her next goal was to go to North Carolina to meet him and thank him in person.
Stephanie’s mood changed as she spoke to little Gracie. It was apparent she felt safe in her presence and able to open up. As they snuggled on the bed, I couldn't help but wonder if Stephanie snuggles and talks to her stuffed puppy next to her pillow at night. This wouldn’t make her any less courageous. It would make her more human.

While she was whispering to Gracie, gently stroking her ears, she became oblivious to my presence. With Gracie, she didn't have to be clever, talkative, or witty.  Having that permission, allowed her to relax. Her breathing slowed and relaxed to almost a meditative state.

Our PTSD Support Dogs seem to have a sensitivity and an intuitive ability to sense if their patients are happy, sad, want to play, or simply be left alone. With them the warriors are able to reveal themselves in complete honesty. The dog provides a mirror back to them, whatever the mood or the circumstance, they have the ability to be more keenly aware than we will ever understand.

I have seen it over and over again. Patients see the dogs and immediately begin talking to them. Who is on the other end of the leash is often unimportant. This is as it should be. For in this time and place of intentional healing, having a friend visit that doesn’t look at them with sympathy, judgment, or requirements is pretty remarkable. With nurses, doctors, therapists, and even family members, there is always something being asked of them.

Sometimes healing for a wounded soldier might just begin by putting ‘Take a Nap’ and Snuggle the Dog’ at the top of their To Do list.



In this program, shelter dogs will be specially selected, rescued and obedience trained for a donation to a warrior with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, as a Comfort/Support Dog.

Your contribution will make a difference.

$250.00 will help sponsor our first dog for a very special Marine with severe PTSD and two TBI's (Traumatic Brain Injuries).

Please send to:
Penny's From Heaven Foundation, Inc.
13423 Blanco Road, Suite 218
San Antonio, TX 78216

Monday, August 16, 2010


Our desire to control is so powerful, and the feeling of being in control so rewarding, that people often act as though they can control the uncontrollable."

—Daniel Gilbert


Laky, a German Shepherd and SSgt Tara H were in Iraq at the same time, but they didn’t meet until a year later on a cold, grim February day at the front door of HealthSouth Rehabilitation Institute of San Antonio. Their parallel journey illustrates that the fight doesn’t end when you come home. For Laky and Tara, home is where their story began.

Laky had been through great deal in a very short time. As a retired explosive detection dog, he was all too familiar with bombs, mortar and the ravages of war. The hope, the dream, and ultimately the fantasy, was that this strong, handsome, vibrant dog would be able to become a therapy dog and aid in the recovery of soldiers returning from Iraq and Afghanistan who had also been diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder or Traumatic Brain Injuries, as had he. On his first mentored visit at the hospital, there was initial concern over the highly polished slippery floors for this war hero who had only known sand and desert. But the concerns were in vain. As they walked down the long hall of the rehab hospital, Dennis, Laky’s owner, quite casually whispered to Laky that he knew why he wasn’t frightened by the floor. “Remember Laky, this is just like the marble floors in Saddam’s bombed out museum in Iraq.”

With these simple whispered words, the reality of Laky’s short life suddenly became quite apparent. This highly trained, bomb sniffing, three year old pup had seen, and heard, things we cannot imagine. He had been a witness to the ravages of war and survived. He had saved lives and perhaps now, with luck,  had a future  changing lives.

Laky received a heroes welcome at the end of the hallway with outstretched arms of humbled men and women thanking him for his service to protect and defend freedom in the best country on earth. Many patients in rehab, if they were able, raised their arms and saluted a very special dog for a job well done. As his audience learned more of his war duties, they looked at his collar, with great reverence. For on this very unique bright red nylon collar was the American flag positioned next to the Iraqi flag.

Tears came to his admirer’s eyes, as they quietly and privately realized that lives were changed, lives were spared, and how the extended ripple effect of Laky’s work in Iraq had impacted people that will never know their loved ones are alive and well because of this dog. Soon with just one more turn down a hall in the hospital, no one could have known that Laky would save yet another life.

Tara was facing severe depression on the first anniversary of the Valentine’s Day attack in Baghdad that ‘took her leg, a portion of her brain, and a very large part of her spirit.’ She sat bent and battered in her wheelchair when Laky first entered her world. “Little did I know that day was going to turn my life around.”

As her husband was pushing her wheelchair down the hall at the hospital, Tara was barely able to lift her head. But when she saw Laky something clicked inside of her. “Here was this beautiful creature, in such contrast to me. He was full of life and energy. I extended my hand to pet this magnificent animal, when I felt the first tear fall down my cheeks.” Laky’s owner explained to Tara and her husband that Laky, an explosive detector dog, had been only a few short miles away from where Tara was injured. As he spoke, tears welled in his eyes. Later through his tears, he revealed that he would have done anything, if Laky could have found the bomb that targeted Tara.

Sometimes it is difficult to say where the change begins in a patient, but a year later, Tara has found true meaning and depth of purpose in her life and attributes it to that moment when she met Laky. “I found healing in something that found me at just the right time in my life - Laky. The power of dogs is in the creatures we love for pets because of their loyalty, fierceness of character, and unconditional love for us. They love us when we’re rich or poor, furious or composed, and especially when we are depressed, even incredibly happy.”

Tara is an intoxicating blend of courage and inspiration, demonstrating that life is sometimes holding on just one more minute.

And as for Laky, his psychological wounds were too deep. He didn’t make the therapy dog program. But on one Sunday afternoon in a hospital far from Iraq, just by his presence, he managed to change the life of a very special young woman and carve a place in her heart forever.

Laky now is able to enjoy life and all it has to offer, with kids to play with, a pond to swim in, and a very large stick to chase.

Tara still, and will always, struggle with her PTSD and Traumatic Brain Injuries.  But she is an inspiration and light at the end of the tunnel for other warriors suffering from the same thing, each and every day.  She embraces strength, love of her own personal dogs, and others with a contagious affection that speaks softly of endurance and courage.



In this program, shelter dogs will be specially selected, rescued, and obedience trained by our dog trainer for a donation to a warrior with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder as a Comfort/Support Dog.

This will make a difference and you can help.

$250.00 will help sponsor our first dog for a very special Marine with severe PTSD and two TBI's (Traumatic Brain Injuries).

Your donation may be made anonymously, if preferred.

Sunday, August 15, 2010


They sat in the shadow of the Center for the Intrepid at Brooke Army Medical Center on a wooden bench. He in his blue plaid pajama bottoms and a tshirt. She in her fur coat. 

To anyone passing, it appeared as if they had been best friends for a very long time.  The way he looked at her - the rapt attention with which she hung onto his every word.  It was evident there was love, commitment, and responsibility to each other, but more importantly a trust - a trust that included true listening and hearing.  There was no betrayal, judgment, or lack of acceptance.  It was simply a pristine, peaceful place in time for two friends who had met only moments earlier.

Social isolation is a problem with warriors returning from Iraq and/or Afghanistan with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.  They tend to avoid people, friendships, social support, and emotional closeness.  Which simply exascerbates the on-going issues of loneliness and helplessness and ends up allowing more time to worry.  Having the unconditional love of a dog can be, in many situations, an answer.  The dog doesn't judge the warrior, nor ask anything of them.  It is simply there, providing a basic necessity that all of us yearn for - someone who loves us no matter what. In essense, the dog validates the soldiers and appreciates them.  So often they return home a different person from the one who left.  How could they not? Many return emotionally numb.  This is a common reaction to trauma.  It is not deliberate and it is not controlled.  It just happens.  With a dog positive feelings are rekindled and happier times remembered.  It can help the warrior to begin to express feelings once again.

The grueling memories associated with war may last a litetime, but PTSD doesn't have to be a life sentence, if your best friend is beside you.

The distance from your heart to the mouth may take time.  But when the person you sit with on a bench loves you unconditionally, doesn't judge you, is paying attention to your every word, and listening intently,  this is a very important step in the right direction. Talking to a person, or in this case a dog, that you can completely trust might just possibly hold the key to easing some of our warrior's feelings of hopelessness, fear, anxiety, isolation, and depression.

When it hurts to look back, and you're scared to look ahead, you can look beside you and your best friend will be there.

"Don't walk in front of me, I may not follow. Don't walk behind me, I may not lead. Walk beside me and be my friend."
- Albert Camus
"Everyone hears what you say. Friends listen to what you say. Best friends listen to what you don't say."

                                                                          - Anonymous




In this program, shelter dogs will be specially selected, rescued, and obedience trained by our dog trainer for a donation to a warrior with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder as a Comfort/Support Dog.

This will make a difference and you can help. 
$250.00 will help sponsor our first dog for a very special Marine with severe PTSD AND TWO TBI'S (Traumatic Brain Injuries).

Your donation may be made anonymously if preferred.

Friday, August 13, 2010


Wouldn't you like to cleanse the world of houseflies?  Stupid question. They are irritating and dirty and they drive, not only me, but my dogs, insane.  On occasion, they remind me of some people the world needs to be cleansed of as well.  Blindly slapping at two irascible flies in my kitchen with a tea towel was enlightening!  It was apparent that while doing so, I wanted to slap a few people too, as I batted at the flies, consistently unsuccessful in my mission. 

Later this same day I discovered that flies also drive buffaloes crazy.  Okay, so perhaps I need a life.  Or perhaps I need less of a life.  But feeding pellets to a buffalo named 'Bunky' lightened my mood, enlightened my heart, and made this Sunday pretty darn special. 

“What is life? It is the flash of a firefly in the night. It is the breath of a buffalo in the wintertime. It is the little shadow which runs across the grass and loses itself in the sunset.”


Over and over again, "Bunky" begged for more pellets, sticking his giant head through the fencing. He would interrupt his treats, on occasion, to throw his head over his shoulder to bat at the flies on his back.  He would then look at the horses next to him in the pasture and almost tease them because he was getting 'treats' and they weren't.  Bunky's caretaker came with fly spray and hung over the fence to spray away Bunky's nemesis - the fly!  If only he could do the same for me.

Then I felt a bit of guilt for my thoughts and was reminded of a statement by Rabbi Harold Kushner, "When you carry out acts of kindness you get a wonderful feeling inside.  It is as though something inside your body responds and says, yes, this is how I ought to feel." Which led me to believe how truly sad those people must be that don't know this secret.  Those whose sole mission is to destroy and hurt and mame others.  This message for a sick soul is truly sad.  Hurting others doesn't make you feel any better.  It only tells the world who you really are. 

"Life is mostly froth and bubble.  Two things stand like stone, kindness in another's trouble, courage in your own.
Adam Gordon

Danny Thomas once said, " All of us are born for a reason, but all of us don't discover why.  Success in life has nothing to do with what you gain in life or accomplish for yourself.  It's what you do for others."  How truly sad those must be who choose to hurt us intentionally. For them I feel nothing but pity. 

So today I continue to bat the flies that occasionally surface to irritate.  Knowing that they too will vanish and go on about their way irritating others all too soon. For in the scheme of things what is one irritating fly? And more importantly, I will remember that kindness trumps stupid....and flies. And a lick from a buffalo named "Bunky"  can set the world upright again.

'Jessica, you want some buffalo wings?' 'Sorry I don't eat buffalo.'” ~~ Jessica Simpson quote

You don't become enormously successful without encountering some really interesting problems.

- Mark Victor Hansen

Truth be told, whenever we face ambiguous situations with things going for us and things going against us, I would suggest that gratitude is the most creative thing we can possibly do because it puts us in touch with the positive energies that are at work in our lives.
It gives us a way of having confidence and it gives us a way of having hope for the days that lie ahead.

— The Rev. Dr. John Claypool

Thursday, August 12, 2010


Success is every minute you live. It's the process of living. It's stopping for the moments of beauty, of pleasure, the moments of peace. Success is not a destination that you ever reach. Success is the quality of the journey.

- Jennifer James

So what is on your BUCKET LIST?  What is it that your heart desires to complete this journey. I asked this question of two precious friends, as we ate chalupas at a Mexican restaurant. Here are a few of their answers.

Taking Cooking Classes
Riding the Canadian Rails Across Canada
Swimming with the Dolphins
Sky Diving
Getting a Tattoo
Making Someone Laugh Till They Cry
Touching  Lives and Changing Them
Milking a Cow
Running a Marathon
Sounds  pretty doable to me.  Mine perhaps are even easier.  I have traveled extensively.  I have lived alive and awake.  I have lived complete and resplendent and traveled hand in hand with the great pain and circumstances and suffering that surround each of us in this journey called life.  But also pockets of peace and great love.

As I sat jotting down their lists, I tried to think of things I would put in my BUCKET LIST.  Mine are much more mundane perhaps to some.  But to me they exemplify peace, charity, love, and a life lived in a dimension I have never known, yet strangely have always known. There have been times when I thought that where I was in my life was near perfection.  But looking back the answer would be a resounding NO.  We learn, we live, we change, we struggle and we move on. 

For me my BUCKET LIST would contain:
Catching Snowflakes on my Tongue in the Colorado Rockies
Picking Wild Strawberries or Raspberries along a Mountain Stream
Hearing Thunder in the Mountains that lights up the quaking aspen - For this brings me closer to God than anything.
Laying in a hammock near blue waters in the Caribbean, listening - just listening.
Changing a life one at a time with patience, love, understanding - the gifts I have to offer through my understanding and deep compassion.
Inspiring others to greater heights.
A summer home in Colorado or New Mexico, places where I feel I truly belong.
And someday I would like to see the rural villages of Tibet - especially Naxi.
Finally, I would like to write another book.  I have written 54 books, but I want to write THE definitive book on pet therapy and how it assists our warriors returning with PTSD.  I would like to leave a legacy that this book started the ball rolling and can help our warriors to a degree others have never explored.
I want to continue holding the hand or those in great pain, for I know what it is like to be alone, frightened and in anguish.

This morning the sky is hidden.  I feel awakened.  The Penny's From Heaven Foundation that I have poured my life into for many years, is taking extraordinary new and exciting directions.  The pieces to the puzzle are literally falling into place.  The foundation has recently been purged of stumbling blocks and negativity.  The result has been nothing short of brilliant.  Our posture on the national stage is just beginning and the support we have received has been nothing short of phenomenal.

So perhaps filling your Bucket List with things to do is not complete until 'the universe' takes you by the hand and says, "No you are not quite ready yet...you have things to do, stories to tell, other lists to complete, and other hands to hold, other tears to wipe away, and other people who need your love, and other people who need to love you back."  And in my case, I am being told I need to laugh more, experience joy more, and learn to take the insults, assaults and backstabbing with a grain of salt.  People who do this to you are only satisfied if they injure you.  I for one won't allow them this luxury...they are quite frankly nonexistent and completely useless to me. 

So while you are filling your Bucket List with those things you might like to do, you might consider that perhaps, just perhaps, you are smack dab in the middle of filling, emptying, filling, and fulfilling that Bucket List right here, right now.  With every breath you take, with every heart you touch, with every life you shake awake, with every tear you wipe away. We all have wishes and hopes and desires, and yes, even selfish thoughts about what we would like to have in our lives or experience before we die.  Perhaps our Bucket Lists can be filled everyday we take a breath by doing the right thing and  being a good person and by deflecting the bullets of hatred and anger from others.  Perhaps we have that choice every day. 

From The Bucket List
"Get Busy Living...or Get Busy Dying"

Carter Chambers : “You know, the ancient Egyptians had a beautiful belief about death. When their souls got to the entrance to heaven, the guards asked two questions. Their answers determined whether they were able to enter or not. ‘Have you found joy in your life?’ 'Has your life brought joy to others?’”

Carter Chambers : Even now I cannot understand the measure of a life, but I can tell you this. I know that when he died, his eyes were closed and his heart was open. And I'm pretty sure he was happy with his final resting place, because he was buried on the mountain. And that was against the law.

Edward Cole : The simplest thing is... I loved him. And I miss him. Carter and I saw the world together. Which is amazing... When you think that only three months ago, we were complete strangers! I hope that it doesn't sound selfish of me but... the last months of his life were the best months of mine. He saved my life... And he knew it before I did.

This is all any of us can hope for.  Buckin' the system and taking a stand every chance we get to do the right thing, finding love for however long we might be blessed with it, and  treasuring the best months,  moments, and seconds of our lives.  And perhaps, just every once in a while, being able to save those amongst us who need saving.

Sunday, August 8, 2010


People disappoint us.  Things disappoint us.  Sometimes we even disappoint ourselves.
Walking into and through disappointment is like walking into a labyrinth.  It is perplexing.  And sometimes it is misery. The darkness gets thicker and confusion reigns without a positive attitude. Recently disappointment has been heavy in the air, and at times it has been hard to realize that in every disappointment there is compensation.

Laurence Olivier said, "Living is strife and torment, disappointment and love and sacrifice, golden sunsets and black storms. I said that some time ago, and today I do not think I would add one word."  I love life and all of its twists and turns.  It is folly to think we don't have upsets. I welcome them into the chaos as well.

But you  know the funny thing about someone trying to intentionally ruin your reputation, slander your morals and ethics, your life's passion, and your work, is that it doesn't work unless you let it.  In fact, their efforts produce quite the opposite result.  Their actions actually open your eyes and show you who they really are.

If you are thrown into a maze, you will make it through, and I can guarantee you that you will find a path that leads you in another and much better direction.  Traversing this path can be exhilirating and energizing.  It is up to you.  You will quickly discover that those things, and people in your life, that have been deadwood, and doing nothing but dragging you and your work down, have taught you a great and important lesson. 

More importantly, those who have steadfastly stood beside you, loved you, supported you, and have known, without a doubt, as they deflect those arrows slung at you, that they were shot in vane - these are the people who really count.  They have shown you who they are, as they have shared laughter with you at the antics of others to implod and defame you personally, as well as your work. 

Such has been the case this past week.  I must say having been hung without a trial wasn't fun for a day or two, but now there is an amazing, vibrant and new vigor to my life - a fresh energy that is clean and full of enormous and extraordinary promise, as I once again have been reminded, in a most delicious way, about who and what is important and who and what isn't.

Penny's From Heaven Foundation, Inc. has changed focus and expanded its horizons to amazing heights.  Those not wishing to partake - well their loss.  But I doubt they will care and it truly doesn't matter. 

Sometimes when we don't know the answer, we have to simply sit and wait as we ride it out and muddle through waiting for the answers to come.  My mantra is,  "If I don't know the right thing to do, I do nothing." Perhaps doing nothing is the answer. 

This brief and pitiful exchange of the past week affected me sure.  But in a positive way.  As I drove home yesterday from another Saturday of feeding breakfast and nourishing 138 + wounded warriors, I felt a sense of hope and exhiliration.  My true friends willingness to extend themselves to sustain me in a way I could never have anticipated will have a huge ripple effect as Penny's From Heaven Foundation, Inc. will soon announce extraordinary plans for the future.  The support we are receiving across the country has been breathtaking. 

So the truth is, I accept and receive the attempts of other to cripple me, with gratitude and generosity.  The interconnectedness of  all life is found in giving and receiving.  It cannot be taken. 

So I say thank you to my enemies, I have been sustained. And again, more importantly, your efforts at demolition will also sustain hundreds and hundreds of others by the new direction of a very brave and stalwart group of individuals who truly know who I am and know my heart and have the best interests of the foundation in mind. God bless you all.

Wiping away tears is what Penny's From Heaven is all about - not causing them!



“The size of your success is measured by the strength of your desire; the size of your dream; and how you handle disappointment along the way.”
~ Robert Kiyosaki

“People look at you and me to see what they are supposed to be. And, if we don't disappoint them, maybe, just maybe, they won't disappoint us.”

~Walt Disney

“Ones best success comes after their greatest disappointments.”

~Henry Ward Beecher


Sunday, August 1, 2010


Anthony Robbins said, "Action is the foundational key to all success." Somehow, to me,  that sounds about the same as James Brown's "Get up offa that thang." 

Okay "done." I take action every minute of every day.  But you know what?  It isn't easy.  There is always someone wanting to squash me down.  Jealously rears its ugly head and you suddenly become the enemy.  Guess what?  That doesn't stop me.  In fact it is energizing.  My philosophy is predicated on the following quote from Emerson. 

"Whatever you do, you need courage. Whatever course you decide upon, there is always someone to tell you that you are wrong. There are always difficulties arising that tempt you to believe your critics are right. To map out a course of action and follow it to an end requires some of the same courage that a soldier needs. Peace has its victories, but it takes brave men and women to win them." Ralph Waldo Emerson

Friday I planned on bravery and winning, but found myself up to to my eyeballs in  frenzy and time wasting, crazy-making dissension and needed a break from the critics in my life.

As usual, to bring me back to center and put focus in my life, I decided to visit the Warrior Family Support Center at Brooke Army Medical Center with a friend and my therapy dog, Kelsie. We were surprised to find the Professional Bull Rider Champs there. We had great fun explaining to all of them about Kelsie's work with the wounded warriors and the remarkable things that happen simply because of her presence.  They were intrigued and genuinely impressed and visibly humbled by the courage of our wounded recently back from Iraq and/or Afghanistan.  One bull rider said to me that 'what they do by getting on the back of a bull is nothing compared to what these heroes have done for our freedom, our country, and our safety.'  They signed autographs for the military and  stood with great pride, side by side with them for photographs.

Kelsie also posed for pictures (wearing bull horns) and we oddly found the Bull Riders asking me to email them the photos of Kelsie posing with them.  What a turnaround!  It was exciting and these guys were awesome.  "ARMY STRONG....RODEO TOUGH!"

But the true joy was seeing the soldiers in wheelchairs, some missing limbs and some with invisible wounds of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, patiently waiting their turns for autographs from some of their national heroes. 

My foggy brain began to clear and again I came face to face with the realization of my personal purpose and mission with my foundation.  As the day progressed, my thinking cleared and I realized what is important and what isn't.  People can say and think what they choose about me.  That is their right and privilege.  But that doesn't budge me from my purpose and mission - much as the Bull Riders aren't budged from staying on that bull.  There is something quite symbiotic about the comparison. 

The symbolism became even more apparent when the room suddenly was filled with NASA ASTRONAUTS

Imagine a Friday afternoon at the Warrior Family Support Center with wounded warriors in uniform, national professional bull riders, and NASA Astronauts.  Just another day in the life of a therapy dog!

They too were intrigued by what Kelsie does for the wounded veterans from OEF/OIF.  And again I explained in detail her mission, for that is what they seemed to want to hear.   One astronaut seemed especially interested, as he signed an autographed picture of himself to Kelsie, he appeared humbled in her presence.  He quietly unzipped a pocket on his uniform and pulled out a NASA patch.  He looked at her vest and then at the patch and said that he would be proud if Kelsie could wear the patch on her vest.  I assured him we would find room and thanked him.  

So the moral of the story for  Friday was courage.  The courage to get on a bull and ride, the courage to go to war and fight, the courage to ride into space.  So I learned that my critics can't hurt me unless I let them.  And I have no intention of allowing that to happen. 

So this Friday the bull riders showed me the way.  The astronauts showed me the way.  A golden lab showed me the way but most of all, my soldiers, as they always have, showed me the way.  Those who dislike me and choose to slander me can continue to do so, because at the end of the day, my mission is intact, and my purpose on this planet is solid and courageous and unflapable. 

As we prepared to leave after one heck of an amazing afternoon, one injured soldier, wearing a Crimson Tide Tshirt, came up to me carrying his autographed photographs close to his chest, beaming because he has little opportunity to give his wife anything and she 'will love these.'  He just stood there looking at me and said "I have to go now, but before I do could you give me my hug."

So critics hold on tight and believe what you will of me.  But know my confidence, my courage, and my mission is steadfast and will not be defeated. You see "my" soldiers have my back!

One wounded soldier, full of courage, asking for a hug and and calling me 'mom' is just about all this gal needs to complete my mission.

My vision will be fulfilled!

God places the heaviest burden on those who can carry its weight.”
~Reggie White

“A leader is one who knows the way, goes the way, and shows the way.”
~John C. Maxwell

“A great leader's courage to fulfill his vision comes from passion, not position.”
John C. Maxwell