*PTSD Dogs, 3rd in a Series.

I have traversed many intersections in the 19,000 miles since the 28’ motorhome, Jolly Swag, and I befriended one another.  Some of those intersections appear only on a map in my mind and in my heart.

At one corner of an intersection is Marine Sergeant Andy Brandi, (http://allevenson.wordpress.com/people/andy-brandy-ptsd-counsellor) who spends most hours of most days counseling combat veterans struggling with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).  Andy lives off the grid in New Mexico.  

Another corner of that intersection is in Ponte Vedra, Florida.

Let us look at how I came to be at that intersection. 

First, let us remind ourselves of the special bond between a boy and his dog, a bond recognized though it stretches across centuries and oceans—across cultures and conflicts. 

Recently, my awareness of therapy dogs took a leap, thanks the book, Shiloh Speaks, co-authored by my friend, Colleen Rae.  I mentioned this new interest of mine to my new friend, Bev Johnson, in The Villages in Florida, where she is president of The Dynamic Dogs, a club which has therapy dogs program.

To my good fortune, soon after I met Bev, the club was meeting and had a special speaker, Shari Duval, who introduced me to still another special sort of dog—the Service Dog, uniquely trained for PTSD.

Matching up special dogs with special boys is an idea that came to Shari and her husband, Bob, a bit over a year ago—soon after their son, Brett Simon, returned from his second tour in Iraq.

He had volunteered to support the troops in the way he knew best—not as a combat warrior, but using his training as a police officer in a K9 bomb detection unit.  He returned changed—the change was PTSD.

K9s For Warriors (K9sforwarriors.org) is a year-old organization born of the collision between a desperate need and a determined mother.  The work of K9s For Warriors is to partner up dogs trained to be with warriors suffering from PTSD.   No other organization in the country is focused on this mission alone.

The program appears simple.  Dogs—most of them rescued dogs, are given to K9s For Warriors for training by certified professionals.  While training, the dogs live in kennels at a three-bedroom house near Ponte Vedra on North Florida’s Atlantic Coast.

Candidates for the program are referred by physicians, military institutions, or the Wounded Warrior Project (www.woundedwarriorproject.org).  The warriors are subject to thorough background checks to insure they are not substance abusers or animal abusers.  They must have an honorable discharge and no criminal history. When they arrive to live at the house, they are paired with a dog that moves into the house with his new partner.  They spend two weeks learning how to take care of one another.  Then they go out into the world together. 

Although the process seems simple, the logistics of selection, training, and follow-up monitoring are finely tuned and managed by certified professionals.  The logistical details of program management and fund-raising are the tasks of the founders, the Duvals.

Last year, 18 warriors, 17 men and one woman, graduated from the program.  This year they are hoping for 35, which they believe is optimum for their facility.  Keep it small, keep it tight, and keep it personal.

PTSD dogs are Service Dogs, unlike the therapy dogs featured in recent postings at this blog. 

Shiloh (http://allevenson.wordpress.com/therapy-dog-1-shiloh) and

Tucker (http://allevenson.wordpress.com/therapy-dog-2-tuckers-story),

PTSD dogs are individually trained to do work or perform tasks for the benefit of someone with a specific disability.  Service Dogs are permitted by law to accompany people with disabilities in all areas where members of the public are allowed to go. PTSD dogs learn to detect mood swings, recognize the onset of panic and anxiety attacks, and distract their partner in the most basic way:  nose pokes, tongue facials, and body nudges.  The dogs wake their warriors from nightmares.   And, I suspect, help the warriors to relearn about affectionate touch, emotional connection, and healthy human relationship.

Shari and Bob are making a difference “One Warrior and One Canine at a time” with the help of Brett, who is the Canine/Military Coordinator for K9s For Warriors.

Donate via PayPal at info@K9sForWarriors.org or put a check in the mail to K9s For Warriors, 88 Cat Road, Ponte Vedra Beach, FL. 32082

Tell them AL sent you.

11 Responses to *PTSD Dogs, 3rd in a Series.

  1. Bev Johnson says:

    Hi Al,
    So glad our ‘intersections’ were on the same co-ordinates! Great explanation of the K9s For Warriors program and the life saving work they will bring to our military. Be on the look out for other Service Dog programs as you travel this beautiful land. I have no doubt that your encounters will continue to reach people with real needs: medical, psychological, genetic (hearing), or many other classifications (autism). Service dogs are being trained for much broader horizons than imagined. But Seeing Eye Dogs still hold the Laurel Wreath of service for their ability to develop ‘intelligent dis-obedience’ (refusing to cross a busy street when told to go forward.) Thanks for championing these causes and being my new friend!!! HAPPY TRAILS TO YOU!

  2. karen wittgraf says:

    This is wonderful! I intend to donate because I can’t think of a better way to say “Thank you” to our vets. You’re right- can’t think of dogs as pets, but as protectors of the human race. Great read, Al.

  3. Colleen Rae says:

    Thanks Al for that special article on K9’s for Warriors. It warmed my heart and brought moisture to my eyes. The work that the Duvals are doing is supremely wonderful for our armed forces coming home.
    i too, will donate to the org. in your name, Al. Again, thanks for making us all aware of this organization. I am proud to be YOUR friend.

  4. David Lewis LaRoche says:

    We love dogs and horses because we have taught them to serve us – oxen too in some parts of the world. We tried that with Africans but found in the end we had reached a little too far. And there were others put to the oar or into the harness – just a random thought here while pondering the foregoing.

    One has to admire the “loyalty” of K9s, their affection, tolerance, acceptance of our ways and their willingness to succumb to whatever’s allowed – though they haven’t much voice. The larger question is why do we engage our youth in these hegemonic contests in the first place. Why must we attempt to control what’s around us and insist that others become we – cleverly send out our young and our innocent to effect that persuasion?

    And praise the dogs, but pity the ones who need them, who gave their grace to power – the mongering zealots who had them stripped of their fledgling humanity as they asked to kill or be killed, and the power … why, by golly, let’s re-elect it.

    • Colleen Rae says:

      Of course, David, the larger quesiton is – why do we engage in wars in the first place, placing our young in harm’s way? As a friend of mine tried to tell me, according to his interpretation, wars have always been, will always be, so says the Holy Bible. I don’t subscribe to that august volume, but I do acknowledge the fact of our boys coming home with PTSD, I think the K9 for Warriors is an admirable function for our ‘pets.’ Since mankind tamed the dog approximately fifteen thousand years ago, we are now using them in a symbiotic relationship.

      • David LaRoche says:

        Colleen Rae, We have a Shih Tzu here, our second. I’ve had a K9 friend, with few exceptions all of my life, and in no way would I depreciate their value – they need representation in Congress – and I don’t in any way, “dis” the “K9s for Warriors” program.

        Yes we have had wars – many if not most under the guise of keeping in close to the book that you call into reference. But I do not subscribe to the premise that wars will simply be. We need to get smarter as it is only a few egoists that wind up the spring while the rest of us, mesmerized by the tension, follow along as inevitably as time.

        How far back should we go – Gengus Khan, Alexander the Great, any of the Caesars, the infamous Hun, Bonaparte N, most of the English Kings, and through many more to our own George B. It’s always been one mans need for power while the rest of us, shrouded over in comfort (whatever the level) end up paying the bill – currently PTSD (and others).

        I think you found my soap box.

  5. David Lewis LaRoche says:

    However careful, always a mistake in the posting.

  6. David LaRoche says:

    Colleen Rae, We have a Shih Tzu here, our second. I’ve had a K9 friend, with few exceptions, all of my life and in no way would I depreciate their value – they need representation in Congress – and I don’t in any way, “dis” the “K9s for Warriors” program.

    Yes we have had wars – many if not most under the guise of keeping in close to the book that you call into reference. But I do not subscribe to the premise that wars will simply be. We simply need to get smarter as it is only a few that wind up the spring while the rest of us, mesmerized by the tension follow along inevitably like time. How far back should we go – Gengus Khan, Alexander the Great, any of the Caesars, the infamous Hun, Bonaparte N, most of the English Kings, and through many more to our own George B. It’s always been one mans need for power while the rest of us, shrouded in comfort, whatever the level, end up paying the bill – currently PTSD.

    I think I’ve found my soap Box – it’s been missing.

  7. michael says:

    We have a niece who takes one puppy at a time into her home and does the preliminary training for testing to become a service dog. The dog is with her almost 24/7 for over a year. It is more than her room mate or pet, it is an outlet for her heart, a way someone who has been “tackled and shackled” in mental wards and brought themselves back to a balanced life can do service for others.

    It comes with heart breaks. Some dogs are selected for training, and she has to say good bye.
    Some dogs are not selected, and she has to find them a home, and again say good bye. All those good byes are heart felt.

    And then she finds a new puppy and it starts again.

    She never sees the dogs that are selected for training again.

    She goes to visit the dogs that aren’t selected, and those dogs help the new puppy to learn.

  8. David LaRoche sees the broader picture in all this. So did Shakespeare. In Julius Caesar, Marc Anthony bellows. “Cry Havoc! and let slip the dogs of war; that this foul deed shall smell above the Earth With carrion men groaning for burial.” War is Hell, and the instigators of it, who are too often unpunished, should be sent to Hell, not the innocent boys who, like dogs. have been trained to do their bidding.

  9. Karen Goucher says:

    Thanks Al. Simply put. A great read. Dogs are incredible. The need is great!
    Humans have no better companion as that of an animal….in this case…a dog.
    You just never know what you’ll find in Florida.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s