Wednesday, September 8, 2010
A DOG NAMED COCOA
Sometimes we find love and the very best medicine right under our noses.
"Being able to have my four legged best friend by my side through this training is just an amazing thing. She has always been there for me and been able to help me as a comfort dog. After this training she will always be able to be by my side. I will not have to worry so much about what I am about to do because of a panic attack. I will know I have Cocoa by my side to help me through my everyday tasks I found difficult to do before. I won’t always worry and be on guard, because I will have my best friend by my side."
SFC Andrew's words came from his heart on the eve of his first training class for his rescue dog Cocoa to become his certified PTSD Support Dog through Penny's From Heaven Foundation's TRAIN A DOG - SAVE A WARRIOR PROGRAM. Diagnosed with TBI/PTSD Andrew had not been able to drive a vehicle since his vehicle was 'hit' by an IED in Iraq two years ago. That is until the night of his first dog training class. This night he drove! He and Cocoa together navigated forty five minutes in a rain storm in rush hour traffic alone. He did have a mild flashback,"...but I looked at Cocoa snuggled close to me on the front seat and she looked up at me and seemed to be telling me that I was going to be okay." Anxiety and paranoia dissipated. All because of a seventy-seven pound four year old Chocolate Lab!
Perhaps the lesson here is that sometimes we have to embrace what we already have. And sometimes that just might be that we have to pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off, and put our love and trust in a dog named Cocoa. Cocoa makes Andrew feel more alive, more independent, more the guy he was before he went to Iraq. Andrew is smart. He is paying attention to the messages in his life. He is awakening and no longer allowing fear to control his emotions. Cocoa listens and understands.
Together they are beginning the journey toward recovery and coping with PTSD and TBI, one step at a time. For Andrew, recovery is a mindset, a decision. Together they will accomplish great things. And I believe that were he to write a list of the one hundred things he loves most, Cocoa would be at the top.
"Peace begins with a smile."