Sunday, September 12, 2010


"You're not meant to do it all!"  This is posted on my desk, and I, as do many, need to grasp the deep implication, consequence, and reality of these few simple words.

But how do we keep it so simple?  We all get caught up in the big picture. Then sometimes there is that moment, in a conversation of significance, when it occurs to us that we cannot do it alone.  We may have a health concern, a personal problem, or we may have a friend or loved one just returning from war that is difficult to understand, with disturbing changes to his or her personality. Post Traumatic Stress Disorder seems to have taken control of every aspect of their life.

According to the VetCenter Readjustment Counseling Service, "PTSD is an acute stress response that becomes stuck in the 'on' position.  In many cases the brain causes the entire system to go into a highly aroused state, causing the warrior to be on the lookout for even the slightest hint of a traumatic event similar to the one that produced the extreme stress reaction in the first place. Symptoms have various patterns.  Arousal with sleeplessness, hyper-vigilance, jumpiness, and restlessness. Intrusive symptoms with mental replays and nightmares where the person sees, hears, feels, smells, and even tastes aspects of the event that appears real, vivid, and frightening.  Avoidance symptoms result in shutting off one's emotions and the world." PTSD is as individual as a fingerprint.

Wounded warrior after wounder warrior tells me that his dog is quite literally more important to him that anyone else in his or her life.  The reality is, more often than not, this is true. Some wives or husbands and family members understand and accept this, some don't. This doesn't make the warrior any less in need of understanding and support, but more so. It makes them more human. It is said that 'there is nothing harder than loving a soldier.'

Healing is the goal.  Sometimes this healing comes with a very different type of medicine that provides a healing and safe environment.

A physician just back from six months in Afghanistan told me in a phone conversation that, "I couldn't have made it without my dogs.  Humans always have a condition. The dog is the drug, the dog is the magic bullet, an angel, a companion, a substitute child, the dog is everything. I have been given a gift of seeing how fragile life really is.  I feel lost, alone, and angry.  I saw things I never imagined were possible to do to another human being.  I prefer to be with my dogs. I know this is hard to explain, but this has been the best and the worst experience of my life."

All too often I hear the same thing.  But as she continued talking what she told me left me breathless. "I know these dogs make a difference.  As an anesthesiologist, the first, the very first question most of these combat wounded 'boys' asked after they were blown up was 'where is my dog.' The first thing they asked."

I cried with her on the phone, as she said she has a hard time coming home to the 'bull' that she sees in other young men and women who know nothing and could care less about sacrifice and duty and service. "What they find important disgusts me. I have my legs.  I have my arms.  I believe in my dog Patch."

She called me a hero and told me how she respects what I do. She wants to give back to these 'boys' and help Penny's From Heaven Foundation, Inc.  in anyway possible.  I just shook my head.  "I just want these boys to have a dog."

So in the end maybe I am not meant to do it all.  But I'm going to try.  You see, I have been given a gift too.  I have no choice.

Please help us help our military returning with PTSD.

$600.00 will train a dog for a soldier with PTSD.

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