Thursday, January 20, 2011


"Dogs are the leaders of the planet.  If you see two life forms, one of them's making a poop, the other one's carrying it for him, who would you assume is in charge?"
~Jerry Seinfeld

This 'make you smile' quote should resonate with anyone who has or ever has had a dog! 

It also has great depth when you think of all that a dog does for us. Yes, our dogs are in charge! It is just what they do!

Who comes to us when we need a wound healed or when a tear needs a snuggle? 

Who waits, with patience and understanding, outside our door when we want to hide from the world? 

Who gives us the thumbs up sign, just because they love us just the way we are.  No judgement, no conditions, no 'if you will do this for me, I will do something for you.'

Dogs with our wounded warriors are no different. The dogs quite simply don't see them as being injured or sick, but rather as already getting well. They don't notice amputations, severe burns, or the invisible wounds of PTSD or MST (Military Sexual Trauma)! They simply love and don't ask questions.

As for me, I sense, feel, and see my dogs watching my mood, my face, and watching after my soul.  Kelsie will bring me a chew toy or her squeaky duck to see if I want to play.  If I don't, she will wait.  Our dogs are not able to go to the medicine cabinet and bring us our medicine. Perhaps this is because they are our medicine.  Just a look from us, or the intonation in our voices will bring the dog to our side instantly, simply waiting to be touched, or held, or to offer what they offer best, their love and presence.  

Every path has its pebble. But you know what, as Frank Lloyd Wright said, "The longer I live, the more beautiful life becomes."  I think our dogs already know this.  So when people lie about us, cheat, steal, and try to smash us into the ground, I choose the high road. I am FAR better than this.

Face it.  We all have those periods when we are lost.  So lost in our sense of low self-esteem that we forget that our lives are an essential and vital part of a greater whole.  For me, as Joyce Myers is quoted as saying, "A #2 pencil and a dream care take your anywhere." What about you ?  What leads you forward? 
Our ordinary pets come to our rescue many times a day.  And countless thousands of working therapy dogs come to the rescue nationwide for ailing, recovering, troubled, needy, depressed and distressed, or in need of comfort clients.  This takes a great deal of learning on the part of of the handler - how to keep our dogs safe in hospitals, hospices, classrooms, rehab centers - how to prepare for the unexpected - how to read the early signals that our dog is stressed and how to handle it - learning client confidentiality laws, rules for grooming both pet and person, and much more. Each and every dog must be responsive to basic commands, sit, down, stay, walk perfectly on a loose-leash and submit happily to foot and teeth exams and brushing, as well as accepting strangers, and wait with a stranger while the owner is out of sight. and meet another dog politely.  These dogs must also thread their way through crowds of people with canes, walkers, and wheelchairs and then there is the unexpected loud noise, which they must pass by calmly on command.
Once the dog has passed the tests, their visits can bring incalculable benefits to clients. These dogs are working their magic across the nation.  The Delta Society in Bellevue, Washington has 10,000 teams, Therapy Dogs International in New Jersey has 18,000 dogs registered, and Therapy Dogs, Inc. in Cheyenne, Wyoming has more than 10,000 therapy dog teams.  There are thousands more people and pets registered with smaller groups. 
As for Penny's From Heaven Foundation, Inc., we always have a waiting list.  We are waiting for the best of the best.  We want to set a standard for Animal Assisted Activities and Animal Assisted Therapy that will move forward into various venues besides the norm.  It is working. 
Sometimes what we do is unrecognized, and then sometimes it is so vibrant and full of grace that you can't help but burst into tears.  For it is from that place of grace, when tears come, that we find out who we are, where our passion lies and that we are indeed in that place in time doing exactly what we should be doing.
At the Lackland AFB Fisher House recently, a precious little girl took her first steps.  Her dad has cancer and has been undergoing treatment since Kiana was born.  Growing up in the Fisher House, she has multiple moms and dads and brothers and sisters. For all there are family!!  They take care of each other. 
This one particular night, blonde and curly-haired little Kiana stood at the end of a long hallway, facing the children's playroom.  She saw Kelsie and squealed with a joy that I probably will never be witness to again.  She was beaming. Her entire body trembled in such a manner that the enthusiasm was contagious and brilliant and breathtaking.  She let go of her mama's hand and stumbled and tumbled down the hall to Kelsie. Every one of the twelve to fifteen people observing this began to cry, as she fell onto this eighty pound dog, wrapped her arms around the furry neck and said, "Oh, oh!"  Her first steps taken toward a therapy dog, trained for anything!  It was one of those defining moments, as I glanced at her dad and saw tears of joy running down his face. Camera's clicked and tears poured from all unashamedly.
This is what it is all about.  For just a moment I was her grandmother and everyone there was a family member. 

You tell me who is in charge! It most assurdedly wasn't us.


To help us further our work with our therapy and service dog programs, please send tax deductible donations to:

13423 BLANCO ROAD, STE 218


Saturday, January 15, 2011


Sometimes don't you just want to hide and hope the storm passes, the the pain stops, the pressing and urgent matters are all solved, and the people that have hurt you 'get' theirs?  It is just at this time that suddenly, out of the blue, a friend brings you flowers and ice cream.  The clouds lift, rain or not, and the whole world seems a whole lot brighter. 

"Our thoughts and actions should express our mind of compassion, even if the other person says and does things that are not easy to accept.  We must practice this way until we see clearly that our love is not contingent on the other person being lovable."
~Thich Nhat Hanh

Perhaps just perhaps how far we go, and how well we fare in life, depends on loving those that are unlovable and those that have hurt us and made oceans of our tears. 

I think one of my all time favorite quotations is from Rainer Maria Rilke, "Perhaps all the dragons in our lives are princesses who are only waiting to see us act, just once, with beauty and courage.  Perhaps everything that frightens us is, in its deepest essence, something that wants our love." 

You may need to read that once or twice to grasp the multi-leveled meanings. What I can say is that whenever, and it is often, a situation occurs, or a word cuts deep, or a friend betrays, and blossoms fall from the trees that shelter our lives, I remember the princesses and the dragons, and I remember that perhaps these are the times and the things and the people that need our love the most.  So I don't give up on them. 

"It's no trick loving somebody at their best.  Love is loving them at their worse."  ~Tom Stoppard

We have all, at one time or another, been in the trenches and most of us have survived. Watching wounds heal, whether physical, mental, or emotional is difficult and in some cases the wounds reopen and the pain comes screaming out, as it did one day in Plano, Texas.

I remember walking through the galleries of H. Ross Perot, Sr.'s offices, with a wounded warrior I shall call Harry and my therapy/service dog, "Kelsie."  We were there to meet Mr. Perot regarding the Penny's From Heaven Foundation.  The moment we entered the doorway and presented our documents for admittance, Harry's personality changed completely.  He started walking, seemingly in circles, saying over and over and over again, "Where is my sand? I know it is here somewhere.  Where is my sand?"  I kept asking him what he was talking about, as we moved quickly through  halls and halls of priceless memorabilia from the life and times of an amazing man.  Original paintings of George Washington, multiple Norman Rockwells, and life size bronze replicas of Mr. Perot's grandchildren made me stop in my tracks.  But the mission of finding 'the sand' was all that was on Harry's mind. Upon questioning him, he responded only in a whisper, "It is here someplace."

Mr. Perot  provided us with a wonderful docent, to continue our tour of a building full of his life's gifts and achievements. One hallway took us to a room of memorabilia from OIF/OEF.  Harry hurried on ahead of the tour and excused himself, saying he needed 'to go outside for a while.'  Recognizing PTSD and its signals I knew this room contained something causing him to face fear and flashbacks head on. He had to escape. He could not face something in this room.

Then I saw it.  The sand.  It was in an ordinary jar on a large shiny black acrylic podium with the sunlight streaming in the window onto it.  Next to it sat a photograph of Harry in uniform and a letter that he had written that accompanied the jar of sand he had sent to Mr. Perot from Afghanistan.  The words in the letter were poignant, moving, eloquent, but most of all honest. I went to find Harry later and simply gave him a big hug and said 'thank you' as told him I understood. 

Maybe the dragons that haunt him are telling us that he simply needs our love to help him heal.

Don't we all have that jar of sand that contains grains of sand so infinitesimal and flawed that we can hardly see them, but together they form a pain like none other? I feel our warriors pain. As one tried to explain his feelings following the amputation of a limb, "I am still on the table bleeding and not stitched back up and abandoned."  These warriors want to live again but don't know how. I only wish flowers and ice cream would work.

I continue to pray for them and hope for the best because that is who I am.  And if a Train a Dog - Save a Warrior Service Dog will work for just one of them, then I have not lived in vain. 


"Conduct your blooming in the noise and the whip of the whirlwind.  It's the last time we'll be here.  And although there is much work to be done, and I will try my best to do it, I still believe in chocolate cake and sunshine." ~Gwendolyn Brooks

Thursday, January 13, 2011


“We live in deeds, not years: In thoughts not breaths; In feelings, not in figures on a dial. We should count time by heart throbs. He most lives Who thinks most, feels the noblest, acts the best.”


I forget to breathe, let alone breathe deeply.  I go from project to project, task to task, from need to need, from stress to stress. And before I realize it, I am breathless. My body pays the price.

I feel certain that in the midst of thick chaos, someone, somewhere has told you to 'take a deep breath.'  I read recently that when you are feeling deep stress, you breathe very shallow breaths.  And your body miraculously compensates for this lack of oxygen by making you sigh.  Your body literally is forcing you to take a deep breath.

I can only speak for myself, but I can tell you that I forget to breathe. I live breathless! Frank Lloyd Wright said, "Space is the breath of art."  I don't know that my writing is art, but what I do know is that I have to make space to write.  Writing is the kind of thing that takes my breath away.  Sometimes I don't know where the words come from and sometimes I absolutely know.

Writing allows me to sit and to breathe. It allows my inner self to be heard.  It heals where I hurt.  It awakens my soul and puts my stress to rest.

Every minute we are alive and every breath we take is a gift.  I am certain you are familiar with the magnet stuck on so many refrigerator doors, "Life is not measured by the number of breaths we take, but by the moments that take our breath away." We read it and like it, but how many times have you thought about what moments take your breath away?

What takes your breath away? What is your breath of life ?  Is it stress or moments of pure bliss, rhapsodies, sunrises, grass between your toes, an ice cream cone or a snow flake, a prayer?  Or do you find you simply take in air but find you are not alive?

"Time is strange. A moment can be as short as a breath, or as long as eternity."
~Ardel Wray

I have experienced moments that were as short as a breath and will last a lifetime and never be forgotten.  I would not be the same person had I not been blessed with them.  They are precious and timeless and forever. And they are mine and mine alone.  They may not pass my way again, but I had them.  I think of those who have never had their moment.

So for me as long as there is breath in my body I will try to not rush, to not fret, to not hurry from stress to stress.  I will try to breath and remember the moments that really have counted and the moments yet to come. The moments that have taken my breath away. The moments that I will treasure for the rest of my life.

You have a choice. Live or die. Every breath is a choice. Every minute is a choice. To be or not to be.

~Chuck Palahniuk

You are never promised another breath.  Find the joy, find the brass ring, find the moments that take your breath away. 

My wish for you is that you live in complete and total  utter amazement!


Wednesday, January 12, 2011


"What is missing from many of our days is a true sense that we are enjoying the lives we are living."
~Sarah Ban Breathnach

Some days, many days, too many days, I wake up and think I have forgotten to put me on my 'to do list.'  It makes me wonder, sadly all too often, if I am so busy I am actually missing my own life. Am I so busy helping other people that I don't help myself.

I read the quotation below early one morning last week at about 3:30 AM when I couldn't sleep.  It came at a time when I really needed it. It bears repeating in it entirety. 

"What if there's something tremendous and exciting down there merely waiting for you if you make a little adjustment in where you're letting down your nets, in how you conceive of your existence? What if it's only a matter of learning to fish in a new place?

What might that mean, in your life?

Maybe a new job — or a new way of doing the old one, a redefining of your position, a re-envisioning of its contours. Maybe a new relationship — or some fresh ways of acting within the old ones, so that they get injected with passion again and you begin to laugh and sing and skip and look forward to being with the people in your life. Maybe a new church or synagogue — or a different approach to spiritual life in the old one, so that everything looks different and throbs with beauty and meaning and vitality again.

I'm not saying which it ought to be, the new or the old. What I'm saying is that life, the lake, the unconscious, is filled with possibilities, that it is rich beyond all imagining, that God wants us to enjoy it, to revel in it, to be excited about it, as if it were Disneyland and the fireworks were going off all around us all the time.

We weren't meant to go stale, to settle into mere routine, to lose the mystery and glamour and excitement of existence. And if we have gone stale and settled for less than the fireworks, then it is time we heard the Master calling from the edge of the lake, from the edge of our unconscious, and telling us to let the nets down in a new place."

— The Rev. Dr. John Killinger
30 Good Minutes - Chicago Sunday Evening Club

Okay, if nothing else, it reminds me that I am not alone in this quandry.  This morning I was giving projects to a friend to help me get through the mounds of paperwork and undone 'stuff' on my desk.  He listened and then quietly said,  "I don't ever sugarcoat anything.  But you're not happy are you?"  Talk about ice cubes hitting me. Without hesitation I said, "No I'm not."  Ouch.

Yes, I want to 'skip, and dance, and sing.'  I want the 'fireworks.' 

I am all too often held together precariously by this passion, this vision, this struggle, and this fervent committment to 'my' wounded warriors suffering from PTSD.  The depth of the scope of this tender thread became apparent the other night when something happened that threw my world upside down.  It sent me into a major panic attack and one that lasted most all of the following day.  The entire day I spent curled up in bed with a pillow over my head trying to shut out the noise.  The noise of what had happened, what had been said, the pain it caused me, the harshness of voices, the disruption of my life, the depth of disappointment, and excruciating repercussions, of old memories and  pain. 

Many of my dearest friends called expressing their deep concern.  Several called, offering soup, comfort, and distraction. One friend called thinking perhaps a houseboat vacation on Lake Powell would be the answer. The dogs curled up around me on the bed the entire day and night, prompted my sense of duty once again to my wounded warriors with PTSD. Shouldn't I 'curl up' (metaphorically) around them as they battle through the wilderness alone.

 I can tell you, without my dogs, there have been many times I don't know how I could have made it. The warmth, the sound of their breathing, the one eye never leaving my face, their obligation and duty to not leave my side, no matter what, reaffirmed my responsibility to my warriors.  Some wait patiently for their service dog, some struggle to wait, and some are desparate for help.  My mission is to get them help as soon as humanly possible.  Sometimes they have to wait too long, sometimes they don't think they can wait any longer. Sometimes I can't take their pain. 

Today a phone call from a warrior, who is living with severe spinal pain every moment of the day, tolerable only with morphine, told me all I need to know. I asked where he was and how he was.  He said he was going to take his TADSAW service dog to play frisbee.  Okay number one, it is barely above freezing here in South Texas, and number two the cold weather plays havoc with his pain, making it intolerable. Today is January 12th.  He has been to the hospital eight times this month. But today his service dog got him out of bed, out of a funk, temporarily away from the pain, and off to toss a frisbee in the park. 

Lesson learned?  Not sure.  Perhaps now is the time that I skip, dance and sing.  Perhaps that is why I have been targeted also with PTSD.  Perhaps, just perhaps, I am the messenger for our warriors carrying the same burden.  Perhaps these are the fireworks.  Maybe I don't need to throw a net down in a new place.  Maybe I am right where I am supposed to be.

So those days when there are hundreds of things too heavy to handle, I need to remember this frisbee.  I may still need to bury my head under a pillow, but so far, I have come back out. 

Maybe my prayers have been answered.  Maybe our prayers are answered everyday.  And just maybe we are too busy or self absorbed to see them.


To help us help our warriors please contribute. We can't do it without you!

100% of your contribution goes to provide a Train a Dog - Save a Warrior Service Dog for a Warrior who also might have his head buried under a pillow. 

13423 BLANCO ROAD, STE 218

Thursday, January 6, 2011


Years ago I remember standing at the top of the Sears Tower in Chicago, looking down on the city.  I stood there for a while mesmerized by the lights and distant noise of the city and the miniature match box size cars hurrying somewhere of great importance and ant-sized people scurrying about the city.  I whispered to the friend I was with, "Do you realize that down there someone is crying, someone is laughing, someone is afraid, someone is yelling, someone is mourning, someone is being born and someone is dying?"

It was an eye opener. It made me feel insignificant and infinitesimal. And some how, awkwardly,  it made me feel important to be a small part of it all, peddling as fast as I can trying to make a tiny little difference on this huge old planet that certainly seems small in comparison.  Reminded of the words of Carl Sagan, I located this quote from a man I have admired for decades. 

"Who are we? We find that we live on an insignificant planet of a humdrum star lost in a galaxy tucked away in some forgotten corner of a universe in which there are far more galaxies than people."
~ Carl Sagan

We look in anger and frustration and disbelief at people who have intentionally gone out of their way to hurt us.  We look ahead and fear the future, that we might lose our job or a loved one, or our health, or our lifestyle, or who knows what. While all the while, the place we really need to be is right here, right now, right this minute.

"Do not look back in anger, or forward in fear , but around in awareness."
~James Thurber

I would add to this to look around in awe!  I take deep breaths at night before I go to sleep and in the morning when I awaken, I know what a grand thing it is  to simply be alive.  Knowing that I have survived the challenges of the past and that I will survive the challenges of the future, brings me solace.

Today it is important to end with a quote from Samuel Beckett, it seems appropriate to my life right now. "Ever tried.  Ever failed. No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better."  We try.  We fail.  We learn from our failures. But we need to fail new ways, not because we are stuck in a rut. We are all part of a very complex world where to some degree we are like the tiny ant like people seen from the top of the Sears Tower. And we grow each time we fail.  My idea of winning and success is that every time I fail, I maintain my integrity, my optimism and my compassion.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011


Sometimes our eyes plead, sometimes our hearts are breaking, and sometimes all we need is someone to come closer, see deeper, and really listen to what we are trying to tell them....really hear what we are saying. 

"One friend, one person who is truly understanding, who takes the trouble to listen to us, as we consider a problem, can change our whole outlook on the world." ~ Dr. E.H. Mayo

Being listened to means we are being taken seriously.  It means that our ideas and feelings are being recognized, and ultimately, that we  have to say truly matters.  Have you ever noticed that the friends that really listen to us, hear us, hear our cries, are the ones we move toward?  The ones we want to be around.

As we are listened to, we are expanded and unfolded and awakened.  We have validity and are cared for on a level that we need the most. There is a wonderful quote by Robert Brault, "If animals could talk, the world would lose its best listeners." Perhaps we should take heed.

"Lots of people talk to animals.  Not very many listen, though.  That's the problem.  
~Benjamin Hoff, The Tao of Pooh 

 " I like to listen.  I have learned a great deal from listening carefully.  Most people never listen."
~Ernest Hemingway

To paraphrase Dr. Scott Peck, true listening requires us to set aside ourselves and become totally accepting of the other person.  The person once listened to is more inclined to open up to the inner recesses of his or her mind.  At this point both begin to appreciate each other more and more and the duet dance of love is begun again. 

"The first duty of love is to listen."
~ Paul Tillich

This dog in the photograph is a pit bull.  Her name is Suzie Q.  She was pulled away from euthanization for a two day reprieve  because of her gentle spirit, her soft and loving personality, but most of all someone listened to what this dog was trying to tell them. As she was taken from her run for a walk, she kept looking up at the handler with soft, gentle and pleading eyes.  She was pulling heartstrings with everyone she met. It didn't take long to discover that sometimes you just have to listen with your heart.

Suzie Q had an email stream sent out to see if someone would rescue her.  It was a long shot, but Animal Care Services here in San Antonio cared enough to try.  Almost as an afterthought, I sent the info to the Jason Heigl Foundation in California.  This foundation rescues dogs that are unadoptable by most other means.  Katherine Heigl and her mother Nancy are founders of this wonderful organization, founded in loving memory of Katherine's brother whose life was cut way too short at fifteen.  Within five minutes after I sent them an email, Nancy responded and said they would take Suzie Q.  She made it clear that they don't normally do this, because they have more than their share of pit bulls in California that nobody wants.  But for some reason, she too listened with her heart.

The obvious next question was how do we get this dog to California.  But where there is a will there is definitely a way!  After multiple considerations, an extraordinary volunteer from ACS has volunteered to drive to California with Suzie Q.  Now that is love.  A dog two days away from death for no particular reason other than nobody wanted her, someone abused her , and she is a pit bull terrier is going to California to hopefully find her forever home. 

Some might say we are all nuts for doing this.  But you know what, I for one don't care. Sometimes you have to rescue someone.  Sometimes you have to rescue something.  Sometimes you just have to listen with your heart. 

Thank you ACS for caring and thank you Jason Heigl Foundation for your leap of faith.  Thank you Jeanne for taking a very long ride with this most special girl named Suzie. We want lots of pictures of the journey!


Anyone wishing to contribute to the travel expenses and gas, please send donations to:
13423 BLANCO ROAD, STE 218

It is the least we can all do!
Please indicate that your donation is for Suzie Q.


Tuesday, January 4, 2011


Defining moments. An epiphany if you will.  That moment when you 'get it.'  You know the answer.  All becomes clear, obvious. If we look closely, we will see that our lives are but a string of defining moments. 

One of my defining moments came yesterday late afternoon, when I found quite suddenly that I was allowing the voices of others to drown out my own. The noise of other people's opinions, goals, actions, and desires was drowning out my inner voice, my heart, and my intuition. Time is limited so why do I live trapped. I am exhausted and overburdened, and it seems to be getting worse.  My talents that I most find joy in are being wasted. A defining moment can come with a harsh word, a look, an argument, a touch or it might have no specific origin at all.  But no matter the source you know, you know that you know.

These moments bring about a transformation or radical shift  inside of you and you are never the same afterwards. The course of your personal history will be changed forever.  These could occur when you meet your soul mate, when your child is born, when you or someone you love are faced with a serious illness, or when you have lost a loved one.  Then sometimes they come out of no where, virtually answering a question or a need deep seeded inside of you. There is a shift, as if a switch were turned on.  And then sometimes a clear, conscious decision is made changing your course. A decision that emanates, originates from the need to make a change.  Decisions are made, then commitments are made to that decision. 

But with these defining moments, worlds can collide.  Others might not understand. But you have no choice.


"When a defining moment comes along, you can do one of two things.  Define the moment or let the moment define you." The Tin Cup

"Each day is a new canvas to paint upon.  Make sure your picture is full of life and happiness, and at the end of the day you don't look at it and wish you had painted something different."
~Author Unknown

Monday, January 3, 2011


Out on a limb!  That is today.  I feel like I would like to run away from home, from the office, from problems, from crazed and crazy people, from insanity, and from the world.  Like this cat, I would like to be perched high above it all and just observe, laughing occasionally at the bizarre happenings below me.  Instead, I am being forced into the middle of the messes, dumped in my lap while the one(s) that caused it go happily about their business, taking no responsibility whatsoever.

 I love this quote by Clarissa Pinkola Estes in Women Who Run With Wolves. It screams to be remembered today.  "I hope you will go out and let stories happen to you, and that you will work them, water them with your blood and tears and your laughter till they bloom, till you yourself burst into bloom." 

We all have our stories to tell.  But question these stories imprison us or liberate us?  Without our stories our lives are meaningless.  Sure we all have childhood wounds, less than perfect parents, painful relationships, and unfulfilled dreams.  All of this is self- focused.  But what happens to others, the ones these repercussions fall upon?  Is it so shocking to think that for every action there is a reaction?  And just perhaps that reaction causes others great unrealized, and sometimes paralyzing, pain.

We all have the ability to tell our stories of how we were victimized or abused or prevented from doing something or getting something or becoming something.  Some blame everyone else but themselves for the problems they encounter or for their inertia.  This ability to identify how we are victimized or abused is thrust on others, so they never have to take responsibility for the dilemmas they find ourselves in.  This does not liberate them but makes them, and others, quite fed up with the worn-out anecdotes. 

Becoming tired of the story and wishing for an ending to the story is what most want.  Sometimes we just get plain sick of the excursion back into the deep recesses of the memory bank.  Sometimes we just want to lie on the floor and snuggle up to a dog and inhale and exhale quietly, forgetting the story and its ending.  Maybe we should all walk out into the sunshine, or the rain, or under the moon and stars and realize that liberation lies within.  Only we can release the stories and the wrongs done. 

You see the sunshine and the rain and the stars do not require anything of us.  No action is necessary, nothing is demanded.  It is here that you find peace.  Letting go of our stories opens us up to all kinds of possibilities and most of all freedom. So when you are out on that limb try looking up, instead of down.  It is here you will find your future.