Monday, June 20, 2011


There are times in our lives when we need to be carried, when we just can't do it any more.  It is these times we remember who was there for us.  For many of our warriors returning with PTSD PFHF Therapy and Service Dogs are there for them. 

It is in their presence they begin to feel safe and comfortable.    These dogs see past the missing limbs, burns, brain injuries, and Post Traumatic Stress.  They meet them on equal ground. They are not judged, simply loved unconditionally.

When a warrior does something as simple as petting a dog, within minutes they get a massive release of beneficial hormones such as dopamine.  The stress hormone, cortisol is decreased.  Physical anxiety goes down which most often results in lessening depression.

I may not serve in Iraq or Afghanistan, but I serve here.  To face it trembling is not productive.  As our wounded warriors stories weave in and out of my life, I find I await them often with great anticipation and also something that I almost liken to dread.  Dread to once again experience vicariously the stories of a horrific war and yet an unrelenting surfacing of compassion and passion, sadness, and hope to read their souls and to tell the stories of valiant young men and women who return home to what appears to be another combat zone. A combat zone of post traumatic stress, traumatic brain injuries and/or military sexual trauma.

Throughout this journey I have struggled in my own place of darkness.  Iraq and Afghanistan are places I can't imagine, places I have never been and never will be, but I feel deep inside that I have on some level experienced it through 'my' warriors. I feel the places they are when they come home with PTSD, TBI or MST, afraid and know no way out and there is no one to give them directions.  The lucky ones know they have to push forward by faith.  I am reminded of Alan Alda's words, "You cannot get there by bus, only hard work, risking and by not quite knowing what you are doing."

Theirs are stories of extraordinary dogs and extraordinary heroes both serving or having served our country in their own irreplaceable ways.  Our returning warriors have more need for therapy and service dogs than we ever knew or expected and certainly more than ever before in history.

I wish you could feel,  understand what they experience, and to truly 'get it'.  I wish you could  have a sense, in your core, what sacrifices these brave young men and women, as well as their families and loved ones, have made, and grasp the differences made in their lives, and in ours, by equally loyal, courageous and giving dogs.

Imagine being in an agonizingly and unbearably unfamiliar place far from all you have ever known.  A dark place.  The sounds, smells, unrelenting heat and stress, the inability to ever truly sleep or even relax where you don't know if this will be your last day...a place where you don't know where you really are and sometimes wonder why. You have to grown up fast, and muster all the courage and bravery you can. They come home a different person. 

Imagine leaving the battlefield one day and being at McDonalds the next with people that have no ability to comprehend where you have been emotionally or physically.  People who might love you and want to help, but don't know how.  People whose lives have been disrupted and put on hold to be there for you, spending month after month, and sometimes years, with you in the hospital.  Perhaps you have come home missing an arm, both legs, blind or with severe burns or a traumatic brain injury.  It is then that help is offered by another type of hero, a therapy dog or a service dog.  A companion or an assistant that sees past the injuries and teaches us that disfigured or the critically ill are not defined by their differences, but by the things that mean the most to them ~ their family, values, and faith.

You will find that we are all pretty much scared all the time, and there is certainly no shame in that.  The world is full of pain, but also the overcoming of it. In the presence of an experienced dog, whether in a war zone or in another battle of rehabilitation back at home, direction, hope, a sense of peace and a future can often be found again. 

It is for our men and women who lay their lives on the line every minute of every day that that I write today, and to the dogs who protect and defend the greatest nation on earth and to the dogs who are the steadfast companions to our warriors returning with PTSD, TBI, and MST. These remarkable dogs see them through the hell of nightmares, flashbacks, panic attacks, sleeplessness, hyper-vigilance, mental replays, serious emotional depression, alcohol and drug abuse, grief, inability to work, inability to participate in family life, guilt, rage, spiritual despair, suicidal thoughts, and nightmares where the person sees, hears, feels, smells, and even tastes aspects of the horrific event that are all too frightening and vivid.

These dogs are their life savers.

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