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.

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