Wednesday, September 22, 2010


Walking on this journey, we sometimes have to have a 'backup.'  We get exhausted, discouraged, anxious and sometimes very sad.  Our wounded warriors are certainly no exception. But the question is, do we, do they, surrender to the sorrow.  Our warriors with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder find that PTSD grabs them with its claws, pins them down, tears at their flesh, and pierces their hearts. 
Lewis B. Smedes said, "The pain of one chapter, becomes the scar of the next."  We carry the wounds of one chapter into the next. For our warriors, PTSD often defines, and becomes, who they are.  They are their stories, and that includes the parts of them that they are not often able to control.  The ugly sides, the crazy sides, the out of control sides, the irrational sides. We all know that at some time or another, it is our destiny to suffer.  But that doesn't make it any easier a pill to swallow. 

So how do these invisibly wounded warriors nudge into the next chapter of their story? Can we make their journey a little bit easier or is it possible? 

The deal is, tell me I can't do something, and I will do everything I can to prove you wrong. I know, we all know there will be unanticipated stops and detours along the way.  And I guess in reality, all of life is an adjustment to the unplanned and the unanticipated.  But perhaps the essence of life lies in the not knowing.  What else I do know is that everything that happens to us makes a difference and changes us.  Our journeys are filled with surprises. And sometimes a surprise can be a grace!

In school, I had to write a paper on Nathaniel Hawthorne.  I dearly remember one quote in particular, "Happiness is a butterfly, which when pursued is just beyond your grasp, but which, if you will sit down quietly, may alight upon you."  Such it is with our wounded warriors in search of peace from the terrors of PTSD when a little dog lands in their laps and their hearts.

This can be a great moment of unsung courage, that can provide a safe place and a shelter where their best friend is by their side, loving them, listening to them, not judging them, caring for them unconditionally, and creating a deep bond with them, as they look to build a bridge over the pain to the other side.   This pain is an opportunity to discover who they really are on an uncharted journey they would never take on our own.   I wish I could share with 'my' soldiers that we are all perfectly imperfect and that we all need someone to lean on.  This message will come  to them, but not always in a straight line.  Life conspires to help us when it is time.  I suppose that there is a kind of grace in suffering, if we can realize that there is a place between 'no longer' and 'not yet'.  And if , in that space between the notes we just might find the music that helps us go on.  Eric Hoffer said, "It is loneliness that makes the loudest noise. This is true of men as of dogs."

Abandonment is a universal fear.  But with a fuzzy magnet by our sides we will never be abandoned. An email from a deployed soldier to Guardian Angels for Soldier's Pets was forwarded to me.  "I wanted to drop a line and thank all of you that volunteer to help us out.  Not to be dark or morbid, but we are suffering from the worst loss of service members lives AFTER deployment than we ever have.  I know my 'baby' (his dog) makes a difference in my world, so when you open up your home (for one of our pets) you TRULY make a difference.  I simply ask you to help spread the word and open more homes and donate for the only piece of sanity that some of us have to come home to."

So as you open your door to your little furry 'piece of sanity'when you come home from work or the grocery store, think how it makes you feel to curl up on the sofa with your best friend by your side, asking nothing but to simply be able to sit next to you and put his head on your lap.  Life is a classroom.  Whether you learn or not is optional.  But our soldiers are trying their best to stay in the ring and fight for their lives, as they fought for ours.  Isn't it time we helped them?  It just might be a crisis gone horribly right!

Visiting a soldier in the hospital with my therapy dog clinched the deal when he said, "It is like an angel has come to visit." 

So to our returning warriors: If the door to your dream is closed, build a new one!  And if the drama of the recovery takes a lifetime, it is a whole lot better with a dog by your side, as you reinvent a new way of being.  A dog that will teach you compassion, patience,  tolerance, trust and, respect and is guaranteed to keep your heart open. We all have to make it up as we go, and do, and be, the best that we can be. 

When I asked a soldier where he was going when he was released, his response was, "I don't know."  I guarantee  had he a dog waiting in the wings, he would have known exactly where he was going to his little piece of sanity. Perhaps a dog just could be the answer to patching the cracks that previously could not be repaired.

"It is in the shelter of each other, that people live."
~Irish Proverb

“I wanted a perfect ending. Now I’ve learned, the hard way, that some poems don’t rhyme, and some
stories don’t have a clear beginning, middle and end. Life is about not knowing, having to change, taking the moment and making the best of it, without knowing what’s going to happen next.” 
~Gilda Radner

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