Friday, August 24, 2012


Take a deep breath and do the difficult thing first. I guess I learned this at a very young age.  "Do your homework then you can go play." "Eat all your vegetables and then you can have dessert."You know the drill. 
But as a grown up, an adult, we have to make our own choices.  Nobody else is there to do it for us. Do we do the most important and professional thing first, or do we sit on a branch waiting instructions to fly, or do we dig in deep and do the right thing first, knowing that the fun stuff will come later? 
No one is there for me to tell me which choices need to be made first. My daily choices change, but the one that is always at the front of the line is to do something for somebody else that will change their day, their attitude, and quite possibly their life.  I can do this by simply showing up somewhere with my therapy dog, or sitting at my computer writing, or imagining what might help someone in distress and acting on it.
A couple of days ago I was asked by the state of Texas's FRG (Family Readiness Group)  if I would become part of a 'team' in the San Antonio area that would go into the homes of families whose husband, father, son, brother, sister had just been killed or severely injured in war.  To be there, to help in whatever way I could.  Without hesitation or thought I said "Of course." 
Sometimes things don't require thought.  Sometimes all they require is action.  I hope that call never comes, but it most likely will.  And I will be prepared.  I am prepared now.  I have talked to mothers only minutes after they buried their only son who had been killed in combat or in a different battle...a battle with cancer.  I have held the hands of moms and dads in the burn unit waiting room at BAMC whose son had been burned over 90% of his body, in an induced coma, with a slim chance of living.  I can do this.
Why me?  Why was I out of multiple people asked to do this. How can I do this and never have a second thought? I went to bed thinking about it, and it occured to me that I have been guided my entire life in this direction. Alone my whole life, making my own decisions is all I have known.  Perhaps that has allowed me the ability to reach out to those in crisis.  Perhaps not.  I am not sure.  I am not certain.  I only know I will be there.
Then it occured to me that it really isn't important that I know.  It is only important that I be there.  That I feel their pain.  I take it inside of myself.  And then I understood. Would I not be doing the very same thing our therapy and service dogs do for those who need them the most.  They are simply there. 
My question had been answered.  I had learned my lesson.  For those struggling, dying, barely hanging on, in crisis and chaos, I will be the cool one who is simply there, to hold onto, not judging, not demanding, not questioning, not knowing, just being there.
I have been told only recently that this is obvious in all I say and do.  Yes, I am compassionate and loving and caring.  But when all is said and done, this has been learned the hard way, from the friends who have been there for me through all the crap in my life. And I have learned this all too well from people who professed to be my friends and stabbed me in the back multiple times and have walked away, leaving the knives in my back.  But the ones that have taught me the most have been my dogs.
Sitting in a dark room at a rehab hospital with a wife of a terminal patient, I held her hand.  My little blind therapy dog, Gracie, went to her bag we carry with us everywhere, and dug and dug until she retrieved a weather beaten stuffed little pink mouse.  She adored this toy more than any.  If it were misplaced or lost, life would have to stop until 'mouse' was found.  It was her treasure.  But this day it was her gift.  She took it out of the bag and with great purpose deposited it on the lap of this lady sobbing in the darkness.  I told her what a beautiful gift she had just been presented with. She reached to Gracie and held her little head so softly in her hands and smiled a smile through her tears I will never forget.  She never said a word.  But she understood.  She understood the gift of presence.  Gracie had presented her with her most treasured possession.  Her gift of presence.
You might laugh or say poor woman, but that's okay.  Because I know the truth. Daily I see the tears, the fears, the tunnels with no end, the gloom, the death, the darkness, the never ending anxiety, the hopelessness, the illnesses, and the lack of life that is all too prevalent in this world. And I have faced it head on in my own life and in the lives of those patients and warriors I work with. 
I respond well in a crisis situation.  I am steady.  For you see I too have PTSD and survive horrific panic attacks...with my dog by my side.  And together we make it. I consider my having PTSD as a gift so that I may better help others.
So if the call comes.  I will be there. And I will hope to make a difference.  And they will most likely never know my name, but they will remember that I was present. 

Monday, August 20, 2012


"It's not about what you wear, it is about what is in the heart." Terry Hershey

And perhaps it is through the eyes that we can see into the heart...where love dwells. 

I received a post, a blog, entitled "What is love?"  The person posting lets his readers know that the definitions found in the dictionary leave something missing ~ "a tender passion for another person, a feeling of warm personal attachment or deep affection and more."  But none of the definitions really meet the criteria I was searching for either.  Until I read further in his post.

"Love is trust, love is pure openness, love is knowing that you offer yourself without any barriers...a total surrender of love." Alexandra Horowitz writes in her book, Inside of a Dog, of the way dogs look at us. Somewhat interested I continued to read.  She talks of a seemingly small difference between wolves and dogs and its remarkable consequences.  "The difference is this: dog look at our eyes."

"Dogs make eye contact with us for information."  They watch our every move and sense our emotions.  Wolves avoid eye contact. In both species eye contact can be a threat.  To stare is to assert authority.

Alexandra continued with, "Dogs look too....they seem to be predisposed to inspect our faces for information, for reassurance, for guidance.  Not only is this pleasing to us...there is a certain satisfaction in gazing deep into a dog's eyes gazing back at yours."

But think of the human species. We pass strangers on the street, in the supermarket, at restaurants and the first thing we do is immediately break eye contact. Interesting! Try it. Try holding eye contact with a complete stranger. It is unnerving! Uncomfortable.
I relate this to the wounded warriors I work with daily with my TADSAW AMBASSADOR THERAPY DOG, Kelsie.  They look at her and no one else in the room.  They find peace there. Solace. No judgment. No questions to answer. 

Yesterday a wounded warrior who had lost both legs and use of one arm told of a question someone asked him.  "So were you injured?" I can't tell you his response, but I feel certain you can guess.  Dogs don't ask such questions.  Perhaps the old adage is correct, "One reason a dog is such a lovable creature is his tail wags instead of is tongue."

There is a calmness a refreshing peacefulness found in my dog's eyes.  You want to gaze back and stay there for a while just looking at this creature who loves you more than she/he loves herself.  Where else can that be found?  A pure love, a love lacking jealousy, a love that is simple and clean and untarnished and not an exhausting burden.
I ask how often you actually look into the eyes of someone you love, a person, a wife, a husband, or anyone for that matter, and actually look at them with the same kind of love with which you look at your dog.
For me this answers one of the questions I have had regarding the depth of the affection between wounded warrior and dog.  It is easy, it is clean, it is non threatening, it is not asking for anything, it is non judgmental it is love in its purest form, it is about what is in the heart. It is what they need.

Friday, August 17, 2012


What is it about doors and beautiful windows that fascinate me, intrigue me, and draw me to them? 

I have a door with a stained glass window in it.  I have Dutch Doors with a beveled glass oval window. I have a pair of antique painted vibrantly turquoise (my favorite color and stone) doors from a home in Mexico.  One has a hidden window in it, so you could peak out and see who is on the other side, most likely and originally, a front door or a garden courtyard door. 

And then there is stained glass.  I have two panels in my bedroom on either side of the bed windows that came from France, where I spent many a summer.  In my garden room I have stained glass windows from various places that I have frequented. I love hanging them in the windows to catch the light, where I sometimes imagine I am in France sipping a Bordeaux at sunset overlooking a vineyard. The French doors in my garden oasis bring a sense of openness and freedom and yearning to be on the other side.

So what is it about these doors and windows?  There are things that are known and things that are unknown on the other side of each. 

But I want to delve deeper.  I want to know what the attraction is for me, for my life, this one and only one I get.  Flora Whitemore may have answered my question with a simple answer, "The doors we open and close each day decide the lives we live."  Doors and windows are cut out to make a room.  So perhaps it stands to reason if we go past them, to the other side, we will find the life, if we look closely enough, that we are meant to live.  Or perhaps when we are inside the doors and windows, it is then that we find our sanctuary, our solitude, our real life, our authentic selves, as we are able then to visualize what we would like to find on the other side of these openings.

Two days ago, I had a new friend tell me, after reading only a few chapters of my PENNY'S FROM HEAVEN: STORIES OF HEALING book, that I was 'authentic.'  I think that describes me perfectly.  It had never been put quite so succinctly.  I felt honored, vindicated, and humbled.  For all the horrid things that have been said about me, I find that all that matters to me is yes I am 'authentic.' And that is enough.

Doors of imagination!  I love these doors too.  For it is when they are opened that we find vision and the good stuff, the right stuff, to turn our vision and our dreams into reality and then become authentic.  It has been said that small keys open large doors.  I believe this.  For my life has been living proof.

Doors and windows can be an entrance, exit, opportunity, passage, transition, a chance or an attitude.  Sometimes we go through a door and come back in, never to be the same again.  Perhaps we come back in better equipped to understand our relationship to the world.

A door or window can be looked upon as an entrance to somewhere else, an unfathomable mystery might lie on the other side.  Charlie Gordon in Flowers for Algernon said, "There are so many doors to open, I am impatient to begin."  The potential is huge, for each door or window opened has the potential to lead somewhere completely different....a moment of passage perhaps.

So for me, I will think of my beautiful doors and windows as something to go through and back into.  A place of discovery and looking forward and then again a place to return to solitude and peace.

And yes of course, a place to let the dogs in and to let the dogs out...repeatedly throughout the day.  But to so do, I find again this sense of belonging.  Belonging on both sides.  Perhaps this is where my authenticity was born.

And for my warriors with PTSD that live in rooms and houses where the doors are permanently shut and locked, it is my  hope they learn slowly that they have to be slightly braver than they are scared.  They will also learn from the words of Charles Dickens, "A very little key will open a very heavy door."  Perhaps in their case that key is a service dog. 

Today take a moment as you walk through doors. What are your expectations and feelings when you do so? Perhaps you too will find that you have much more room to breathe when you take that step over the threshold.

Monday, August 13, 2012


"There comes a time in life when you walk away from all the drama and people who create it.  You surround yourself with people who make you laugh, forget the bad, and focus on the good.  So, love the people who treat your right, pray for the ones who don't.  Life is too short to be anything but happy.  Falling down is a part of LIFE,  getting back up is LIVING."


Anyone who has followed my blog of late undoubtedly is aware of the huge amounts of drama and chaos hoisted upon me that has caused great anxiety, stress, tears and well down right garbage to be thrown at me.  Well in most cases they won.  Or did they?  Or did I allow them to win, so that I would not have to waste my all too precious time on their dramas that fed something vital missing in them?

I very simply refuse any further to let my life be dangerously dislocated! Sometimes the suffering from dramas hoisted upon us causes numbing and the heart begins to atrophy.  Our heart can absorb the pain, the anguish, and is in itself sensitive to everything that happens to us. 

Perhaps it is a wise decision then to every once in a while tune into what our heart is telling us and listen.  For me, and perhaps for you, it is when you begin to listen and your heart is allowed to speak, that the burdens are lifted and there is a lightness and a relief that takes the place of others drama. It is at this place that you begin to feel alive again.  And you can truly sense the privilege of being on this earth and the beauty that is all around us, if we only free ourselves from the dramas of others, open our eyes and our hearts and pay attention. 

We all need to have slow time away from the world and be present for those who truly matter in our lives and the love that unites us.  We need to find that love in ourselves~for ourselves.  And in so doing, leave those behind whose sole purpose is to cause us pain, as they do everything possible to destroy who we are and that which we have built and that which we will build in the future.  With a foundation of courage and love of ourselves, these people can not longer force us into a place where we are stranded between their ugliness and our deep and abiding love of "doing unto others as we would have them do unto us."

As John O'Donohue said "There is a kindness that dwells deep down in things; it presides everywhere, often in the places we least expect. The world can be harsh and negative, but if we remain generous and patient, kindness inevitably reveals itself."  With this kindness comes compassion and goodness. As O'Donohue wisely wrote, When someone is kind to you, your feel understood and seen. There is no judgment or harsh perception directed toward you."

Perhaps that is why I have spent the majority of my life, offering kindness and compassion to those who need it the most.  And I am completely exhausted of those who try to belittle my efforts and force me into a nasty, dark place of negativity.

So goodbye to you.  You have to live with your actions, not I. For me I long for beauty and peace, order, compassion and love.  How terribly, terribly sad these people must be who feel otherwise.  For them blessings never become a reality!


Thursday, August 2, 2012


Because I loved her.  Because she loved me. Because she meant so much to so many.

A book was written about her, PENNY'S FROM HEAVEN: STORIES OF HEALING (LANGMARC PUBLISHING).  A foundation was formed in her name, memory and honor. Today due to a person whose sole mission was to hurt me and the foundation, the name, Penny's from Heaven Foundation, Inc. has been ripped away from me and from all those people who it helped and healed. I don't understand how someone hates so intensely that hurting me to the core is their goal. They found the one way to do it the most painfully. They also hurt and abandoned quite literally hundreds of others who were left in the wake.

Penny was an extraordinary dog.  I could go on endlessly about her gifts of love to so many, but what prompts me to write about today is Penny's legacy, not what she accomplished in her short time on this earth.

She was my golden retriever; she was my life. She died many years ago, but she is always with me.  She is everywhere I look and in everything I do.  From her I learned how to live, to love, and I learned how to survive. She is in every penny found on the ground. No lawyer and vindictive person can take that away from me. 

I remember sitting on the floor with her head in my lap.  Her breath was soft as I brushed her for what seemed like hours, perhaps trying to repay her for the love she gave me every minute of the day. Or perhaps it soothed my soul.  My heart didn't hurt quite so much when she was near.

For you see, Penny saved my life.  She truly did.  Not just physically, but emotionally.  There was a time, and there have always been times, when I didn't think I could go on.  Sure I would slap on the make up and stand before a television camera in front of 250,000 people and shine brightly, but inside I was dying.  Today I feel the same.  If only she were here to let me brush her golden hair.

The legal rights to continue with my foundation, PENNY'S FROM HEAVEN FOUNDATION, INC. are being stripped away from me.  And to what purpose?  It feels today like a very large part of me has died. 

I have had to set temptation aside and not pursue further legal action.  Because you see Penny taught me that nothing, nothing on earth can take away love.  And sometimes you just have to let go, in order to go on.  She overcame cancer for her last three years until, with her head in my lap, and a hair brush in my hand she took her last breath.  But she remains and surfaces in my memory when I need her inspiration and guidance the most.

What my beautiful golden girl and I accomplished was good and clean and honest and full of love.  The book I wrote about her was done so through many tears.  She brought so much to so many people that I had no choice but to put it to paper.  She was a therapy dog that was awarded many times with the final time being December 7th, 2006 when she  was inducted into the TEXAS VETERINARY MEDICAL FOUNDATION'S ANIMAL HALL OF FAME and was selected as an AMERICAN DOG OF DISTINCTION.

Yes, we all have that special dog friend that has left us.  But just as Penny's battle with cancer took her away from me, the legal system and one person's venom, has taken her away from me again.  And sadly, just not me but thousands who could have been helped by therapy dogs in the Penny's From Heaven Foundation, Inc.

But as long as I am alive, she shall not die.  For she was my inspiration, as well as thousands of others.  For healing is found by listening with my heart to the hundreds of lessons that I learned from like there is no tomorrow, be happy no matter what someone else does to you, be fascinated with a simple routine, do the responsible thing even though it isn't always popular, be loyal, rejoice at the wind in your face, and most importantly of all, if someone is hurting, sit real close be very quiet and softly nuzzle them.

I love you Penster!