Wednesday, August 17, 2011
MAKING DIFFICULT DECISIONS ~ WHERE IS THE JUSTICE
We have all had to do it. Successfully maybe and hopefully. But decisions must be always based on the information we have on hand. They cannot be emotional or dramatic. Making difficult decisions is hell.
Making a difficult decision is not always the popular thing. We wonder 'why me'! "Let someone else do it.' It is not always the easy thing. And on top of the angst of that, you have to be prepared for those who are sad, angry, or just plain hostile. For me it seems to come with the territory. I have come to understand that some people don't understand no matter what you do, say, or act upon. The most difficult decisions are those we make that we know are going to be unpopular. Do we know it is the right one? What if it isn't? But then what if we just know, that we know, that we know it is the right thing to do for all concerned?
This week I had to make a decision to pull a dog from our TADSAW Service Dog Program. A perfect dog, a compelling dog, a snuggle bug with not a mean bone in his body. He and his potential warrior with PTSD would have been 'Battle Buddies' for life! I have not a single doubt. They would have bonded in a unique and strong way.
But I had to make the decision to pull this dog because he is a Pit Bull. Because of society's ignorance and stupidity. He has the scars to prove his history has not been anything but cruel. But he is perfection in spite of man's inhumanity. As a therapy dog or service dog, he would be top notch. I would have been proud to have him in the program. He doesn't harbor resentment or hatred or fear of people. He simply wants to love and be loved by someone who will forever be his best friend.
Just one day before this decision was made, I had met a dog named 'Tuesday', a service dog for a warrior at an event in Houston honoring them both and the book Luis Carlos Montalvan wrote about his experiences while deployed and his life saver, UNTIL TUESDAY. The book is on the New York Times Bestseller List!
Our hostess began the introduction of Luis and Tuesday by reading a statement that left the audience of over 250 struck with shock and disgust and something akin to outrage. In a nutshell, this gorgeous golden retriever, wearing his Service Dog vest, and Luis were in the VA Hospital in New York for an appointment. Upon entering they immediately were accosted and told 'dogs are not allowed in here...leave!" Luis, not unaccustomed to being asked to leave places with Tuesday, calmly explained that he was a warrior and Tuesday was his service dog and that the American Disabilities Act protected them. This fell on deaf and stupid ears!
Long story short, the police ripped 'Tuesday' away from him, threw Luis to the ground and a police officer pinned him with his leg in Luis's spine, a spine that has had multiple surgeries from his combat injuries. His back causes him constant pain and forces him to walk with a cane to stabilize himself. Being in excruciating pain, both mentally and physically and experiencing great concern for his Battle Buddy, 'Tuesday', did not phase the police one bit.
He was then taken to jail! This American soldier, a warrior, with a TBI/ PTSD and a back injury, hauled off to jail because he was going to a medical appointment at the VA!!!! Someone explain this to me. He had every legal right on earth to be in the VA, or any place at all with his service dog. What is wrong with the system? Where is the justice? Where is man's humanity to man? Where is compassion?
Most in the audience had tears in their eyes. Most shook their heads. All were aghast and sickened that a wounded warrior and his service dog, an exquisite golden retriever, would be treated that way. I have nightmares about it. Disturbing yes. Disgusting yes. Unjust yes. But real nonetheless. For Luis, this has only heightened his decision to pursue justice for all warriors with a service dog, for all disabled with a service dog. He may have been knocked to the ground, but he is back up and fighting on a very different battlefield than the one in Iraq. But a battlefield never the less.
Luis is a kind soul, a gentle man. Did he deserve this? Of course not. Was it right? No. Will it happen again to others? Most likely. Will it happen to our warriors and their TADSAW Service Dogs? Probably, but hopefully not to this extent.
So to my difficult, unpopular and misunderstood decision...
If this warrior, this national speaker, this kind unassuming man, was taken unjustly to jail for having his golden retriever service dog in the VA, what would a wounded warrior in South Texas face daily when he wanted to simply go to the grocery store, to the bank, to Chuckie Cheese with his kids, to dinner in a restaurant, to Walmart with Eddy, a Pit Bull in a red service dog vest? In a city where 50% of all euthanasia's are Pit Bulls, in a city where all too many Pit Bulls are vicious, fighting dogs. What would this warrior face?
Many of these warriors are fragile emotionally and physically, have anger issues, have isolation problems, have fear and panic attacks when in public, to have a dog by their sides in many, many cases alleviates the fear and anxiety and with this, hope grows. Hope for a future, hope for peace, hope for the flashbacks of hell to lessen or stop. Similar to having a "battle buddy" in the 'zone', a support service dog is a warrior's life-line, as they would be his/hers.
Pit Bulls are not allowed on most airlines. The warrior could not fly. They are not allowed in many restaurants, buildings, and facilities. Is this right? No. Is this just? No. Am I angry? Yes. Is it fair to the dog or the warrior? No. They are not allowed on military installations and the list goes on and on.
To recognize and realize the fact that a warrior with a Pit Bull, as a service dog, would encounter episode after episode of people turning away from him, tucking and hiding their children behind them, leaving a location because they were fearful of this breed, asking management to remove the dog and owner or they would take their business elsewhere, and on and on, led me to make this decision. It killed me to remove Eddy from the program, as it did his huge fan club in PFHF. I couldn't in all good faith put a warrior in this situation.
We are here to protect our warriors, to make their lives better, to improve the quality of their lives. Not to cause them more anxiety because their 'battle buddy' is suspect or perceived as a dangerous and vicious threat. It makes me sick. It makes me heartsick. And yes, I understand those that question my decision. But our warriors have to come first in TADSAW.
And perhaps, just perhaps, this will have a happy ending. Eddy is safe. And many are trying to find him a home, one that he deserves with love and safety, where he is not feared but loved for the magnificient heart he has. A home where he can cuddle and play and be adored. As he sat perched in the back of my car, he quietly looked out the window at the passing cars in a world where people can be so cruel, so void of compassion and humanity, so full of hatred. I felt ill.
Forced into a decision, I did not want to make, was not my fault, nor was it Eddy's fault. It is what it is. So please forgive me and understand my decision to not make a warrior's life more difficult, to not allow him to face, with a Pit Bull, the same things that Luis faced with a golden retriever. TADSAW is here to help not harm.
For me, I resent the hell out of being put in this position, by a society that is responsible for allowing this to happen.
Keri Russell puts it succinctly, "Sometimes it's the smallest decision that can change a life forever." This week I tried to do that. It has not been a popular decision. Believe me this hurts me more than anyone.
If any one is interested in Eddy, the best little dog in Texas...please contact me. He is a heartbreaker and a best friend just waiting for his forever home and someone to love.