The Voices at Arlington

The Voices at Arlington

(This story first appeared in The Dogington Post ) 

“…what most separates dogs from humankind isn’t mental capacity, however, but innocence. This innocence carries with it a clarity of perception that allows dogs to glory in the wonder of creation in even the most humble scene and quiet moment…the combination of their innocence and their intelligence allows them to serve as a bridge between what is transient and what is eternal, between the finite and the infinite.” –Dean Koontz

Gander, my service dog, and I frequent veteran cemeteries and memorials when we travel. We accept requests in advance from friends and social media; contacts will ask us to visit a relative’s gravesite, take a picture of a name on a memorial or leave something in memoriam. Gander quietly sits vigil as I prepare for the rites I have promised to perform. I take this ritual seriously and Gander honors the gravity of promise fulfillment with exceptional calm and professionalism.

Because of the solemnity of our intentions, we go when few people are likely to be there with us at the same time. But, more than once we have exchanged whispered greetings along the way with others and have occasionally been invited into emotional drawing rooms: that place between the living and the dead where Gold Star families mourn. Twice, while at Arlington National Cemetery, Gander has called people deep in grief out of their sadness and comforted them as they spoke about love and loss.

I think we often see and hear what we want to see and hear; we interpret simple events as important lessons. And at other times life rally does conjure up for us exactly what we need, at that moment in time, to navigate toward safety and comfort; a last chance at rescue before resigning ourselves to being adrift forever.

Gander had stopped unexpectedly several times. He would look to me for approval and then gaze out toward the long rows of white markers. Then he would cock his head the way a dog does when someone is talking to him.

A women and her daughter who had been ahead of us for most of our journey toward the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier stopped just a few yards short of our destination. “Do you suppose he can hear them? The soldiers?” I was relieved. It wasn’t just me who thought he was in touch with something invisible and inaudible to we humans. It was a beautiful sunny day. There was a slight breeze, but it was barely strong enough to rustle leaves. He looked engaged, not perplexed or curious in the same caring way he connects with me when I need a dispassionate listener in times of inner turmoil.

She told me that she visits Arlington once a week. Her brother was interred not far away. He’d served in Vietnam as a hospital corpsman. His Purple Heart was earned with a minor injury when their mobile surgery facility was mortared one dark midnight in 1969. He’d been given the Silver Star for his selfless actions that same night while attending to patients without regard for his own welfare. She shared that he had left both medals at the base of Vietnam Memorial years ago as a tribute to the dozens of men he had watched succumb to injuries beyond medicine’s ability to repair.

The day his tour ended he was taken by helicopter from a fire base where he had been performing triage, deciding who would stand the best chance of quick treatment, for wounded members of a platoon that experienced heavy casualties when ambushed by the Viet Cong. He was transported to a waiting 727 that flew him to San Francisco where, still in jungle fatigues, he disembarked through a gauntlet of angry protesters. At twenty years old he was a stranger in his own country after only nine months in Vietnam.

He’d been afraid when he went, she said. The fear was replaced by the grief and guilt he felt on his return. She told me that remembered every name, and held pictures in his mind of every wound he had dressed. His world became television, books, and a dozen ways to pass the sleepless hours.

A job in the post office on the graveyard shift kept him financially solvent. He never applied for Veterans benefit. Working at night, there were few people who demanded his attention. But, the anxiety and depression worsened. And isolation couldn’t create enough new memories to replace the old ones.

By the time he reached out for help, the VA, with the casualties of two new wars to attend to, had few programs and little time to coax cooperation from an aging Viet Vet. The new counselor hires were kind enough, but they couldn’t empathize with a man, decades their senior, who could barely give voice to the increasing sadness and despair inside of him.

He left a note the day he hung himself. He said the only reliable friend left in his life was suicide. He asked not to be buried in a military cemetery because that was reserved for soldiers who fought and for those he’d watched over as they died. But, because money was tight she had arranged for him to be interred at Arlington.

“I feel ashamed. I want him to be at peace,” she said quietly. “Do you think he can ever forgive me?”

You want to say “yes” at moments like that. You want to have a spiritual connection; you want to believe that this kind of deadly regret can be vanquished. That another good person should die physically, emotionally or spiritually because they had done the best they could, should never happen.

I want to lie just to give her some peace. But, remorse and grief are clever, intuitive adversaries: They know when you have nothing more to offer than a “sorry” in the way of a anecdote, aphorism or falsehood meant to send them on their way. I had courted suicide for a long time. There, but for the grace of Gander and God, was I. But, I couldn’t do it. I didn’t know what to do or say.

Just then, Gander rose, turned again toward the graves, before slowly moving toward me with his head bowed. He reared back on his hind legs and placed his front paws squarely in the center of my chest and looked me straight in the eyes the way he does when I am overwhelmed and at a loss for words or actions. A long kiss on the cheek later and he pushed himself off, wheeling to turn toward the woman, who by now was in tears. He turned his body sideways and leaned his weight against her.

It hardly matters whether or not it was coincidence that Gander chose that moment to be affectionate. It has happened so many times now I am no longer surprised when it happens. There was no explanation needed, no words left to be exchanged between us. She did lean down to look into Gander’s endlessly soulful eyes to say “thank you”. We both received an answer we could believe.

“That’s what heaven is. You get to make sense of your yesterdays” –Mitch Albom

Veteran Traveler blogger Lon Hodge is an award winning poet, writer and activist for suicide prevention among Veterans and victims of trauma. He travels with his service dog Gander in support of awareness of the healing power of dogs.

Follow Gander on Facebook at http://facebook.com/ganderservicedog on Twitter at http://twitter.com/veterantraveler or on Instagram at http://instagram.com/veterantraveler

You Can Purchase In Dogs We Trust here: In Dogs
100% of profits go toward suicide prevention charities.
This story first appeared in The Dogington Post and will be included in the In Dogs We Trust e-book and softcover editions.

Fetch: Travels With Gander

“We don’t receive wisdom; we must discover it for ourselves after a journey that no one can take for us or spare us.”

Marcel Proust

I have wandered, not always lost, for most of my life. I have long said that I live in a dialectical solitude: I have purposely explored the far corners of life looking for truth and wisdom and believing it can be found in the most unlikely places. I look at everyone as a possible teacher and every place as a possible classroom. I often envy my friends who a resolute in their politics and have a fixed world view. I am sometimes jealous of my friends who have lived in one place the majority of their lives. Geographically searching for answers to endless questions can be lonely:  The distance between answers requires the patience and resolve of a seaman who knows he may never see land again and suffers less at the hand of rough waters than the introspection and doubt that is a great part of any quest.

I have to do this trip. It is as much for my own health as it is a chance to expose people to the realities of suicide, trauma and the tools required to survive invisible wounds. It is a chance to open doors and ready a welcome for the thousands soon to be heading home from conflict and trauma. It is the chance to maybe save a life or two.

I hope you will come along. I will be writing here on the blog and in newsletters more and using Facebook less. Their misguided moves toward stockholder governance and increased revenues with diminished regard for the communities they serve threatens the “social” in social media and has prompted me to return to more conventional methods of communication.

Thank you for being part of this journey so far. Especially to those of you who have suffered along with me as I learned how to execute the business parts of this adventure. You’ve been kind beyond measure and I ask with great humility for you to travel with me once more on the most important trip to date.

Again, my philosophy is “Something for something.” I have put together some great perks for helping with this next book. I have made them easier to provide and distribute since the last adventure. Here is the link to participate: FETCH: TRAVELS WITH GANDER

Operation Fetch

Operation FetchThe Service Dog Education and Assistance Foundation endorsed art and education journey

  • “Fetch: Travels With Gander” will feature 22  interviews with the families of veterans lost to home-front battles with PTSD and trauma recovery and contain takes of people we meet along the way who now know Post Traumatic Success as survivors of Trauma: war, accidents, sexual abuse…
  • Since the publication of In Dogs We Trust (a successful Indiegogo funded campaign) Gander, Service Dog and Veteran Traveler Lon Hodge have traveled 17 states  in service to veterans and trauma survivors. They have visited dozens of hospitals, community groups, and businesses advocating for veterans, trauma survivors, service dogs, and alternatives to suicide. Since the book Gander, through his Facebook page, has helped place dozens of survivors with service dogs, donated thousands of dollars worth of books to veterans and senior citizens hospitalized, and volunteered hundreds of hours of crisis help, and dozens of internet media and community seminars and workshops
  • This next book will personalize 22 of the stories of the 8,000 veterans lost to suicide annually in America. During the journey they will chronicle the Post Traumatic Successes of those who have won their battles with pain and isolation.
  • We will develop a PACK of  community members and carry out their charitable wishes: Planned Acts of Community Kindness will permit Gander and Veteran Traveler to identify survivors in short term (and legitimate) need that the PACK can easily help directly and with confidence.
  • We will publicly perform a Taps Ceremony nightly in every city we visit during which we read the names of 22 veterans lost to suicide. That is the number of veterans who are lost daily to self inflicted wounds.

What We Need & What You Get

It is simpler this year:

  • Our needs are meager. We need the money to travel to interviews and to take care of gas, room and board during the travel. And we need a few items prior to departing: Suicide prevention and awareness brochures, PTSD and service dog literature, a simple movie capable camera, and Portable Bluetooth speakers and microphones.
  • The perks are simpler this year 😉 We learned last year that we needed to simplify our giveaways and make them immediately accessible to supporters. This year’s perks are already in stock and will be mailed immediately after the campaign ends. We have also added in postage costs.
  • All Tees, In Dogs We Trust Books, Coins and Coffee will be sent immediately.

The Impact

We hope to spread hope, educate the general public and lower the suicide rate among veterans and others through education and greater awareness. One of the biggest challenges facing PTSD and trauma sufferers is the stigmas still attached to them. Only by being more openly public can we overcome that….

  •  Over 300 people have emailed or messaged us this year to say that Gander has helped them in some way. We feel compelled to continue the journey
  •  This is our 3rd Indigogo campaign in 3 years. We learn more each time….
  •  There but for the grace of God and Gander go I… I hope we can, in our small way, make a difference.
  • Here is the best of the many interviews we did this year: Gander, Service Dog
  • Here is a fantastic article by Rick Kambic that made the front page of the Lake County Tribune: Chicago Article

Other Ways You Can Help

Some people just can’t contribute, but that doesn’t mean they can’t help:

  • Get the word out and make some noise about your campaign.
  • Use the Indiegogo share tools!
  • Share our updates on our Facebook wall at http://facebook.com/ganderservicedog
  • Invite us to come to your town ( veterantraveler at veterantraveler.com )
  • Help us identify families to interview. Please use the address above
  • Just be a positive member of our community there…
  • Read our blog at http://veterantraveler.com

And that’s all there is to it!

VA funding of service dogs: a second look…

“Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain!”
― L. Frank Baum, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz

Several blogs and Facebook pages cheered this week when then VA announced it would fund the costs of service dogs for veterans.  freedom-service-dogs-pkg-tr.jpg?w=1500Ostensibly, this was something to rave about. In reality,    there was little to celebrate and the impact on veterans most in need of canine assistance will not be impacted at this time.

The VA decided two years ago, decided to pay ay for costs only associated with a service dog, but only in cases of physical disability.  That means that dogs needed for mobility, hearing, sight would be covered.  Psychiatric issues, like PTSD, were not to be covered.because the VA felt there was not enough evidence to show that the dogs were efficacious.  Despite the wealth of information available to show that service dogs save lives and improve quality of life the VA started an  administratively bloated study to determine if dogs could make a difference in the lives of vets.

The news release this week made it seem like the VA had shifted position. They have not. The only new feature in their policy is that Truepanion insurance company will be paying four the care of dogs “eligible” according to existing regulations.

Currently to get a dog you must have recommendations from your treatment  team, an evaluation by the appropriate clinic (ortho, audiology…) and then go through the prosthetic department who must requisition the dog from Washington, DC.  In addition, the VA also requires you to attend and complete a training course with your dog through Assistance Dogs International or the International Guide Dog Federation.  Once completed, the VA will pay for the costs associated with veterinary care, travel associated with buying and training the dog, along with hardware required for the dog to be able to assist the veteran. Ordinary costs of care (food and such) are not covered.

In my case, I was certified by orthopedics and psychiatry for a dog and then send to prosthetics. They denied my request because I was not service connected for my mobility issues. If I were in need of a wheelchair, crutches, surgery or any other equipment for a non-service connected issue I would be eligible because I am 100% service disabled. But, dogs are excluded equipment. It is like a medication or appliance that is not yet in their inventory due to cost or other reason.

The need for PTSD dogs to help tens of thousands of vets with combat and non-combat related related stress has spawned dozens of new service dog agencies. But, only a handful of them will be eligible for for VA programs for two reasons:

1. The VA will require that the agencies training dogs have Assistance Dog International accredited trainers or other agencies they designate. Most of the new programs do not have these trainers on board. “Veterans who are paired with a PTSD service dog often rave about how it improves their condition. Yet, there has been controversy  over the expertise and professionalism of organizations that have emerged to serve the demand…” The VA is the source of controversy and in past studies has levied some very unrealistic expectations on even ADI established agencies. I know firsthand as I was originally to be part of the VA study program started in Tampa, Florida.

2. The service dog must have been provided at no cost to the veteran. If the agency requires the veteran to raise any of the funds needed the dog is not eligible for the program. Cash strapped non-profits doing good work whether ADI certified or not will not benefit from the program.

With the number of vets returned and returning from war zones with PTSD estimated at nearly 30% of those who served it is a problem the VA needs to be addressing sooner than later. The current study by the VA is scheduled to conclude in four years. How many soldier will have taken their own life by that time. The generosity of the private sector and reputable groups like Freedom Service Dogs (who trained Gander) and Patriot Paws will have to rely on the kindness of their donors to further their live saving missions until the VA answers the growing call for alternatives and adjuncts to debilitating drug therapies.

 

 

  

List of Service Dog Agencies

service dog agency listFollowing is an alphabetical list of service dog providers in the U.S. and a couple from Canada.

Please help us update the list by adding any organization you know, not here in the comment section below. Thank you!

This is a preliminary attempt to create a solid database of resources for people who hope to apply for service dogs. Soon we will have it searchable by State, Services Provided and so on.

Many agencies have sprung up in the last three to five years and I would like to add them in and would like to include more information on each of these groups.

If you know of a group we missed or have corrections for this list, please add a comment at the end of this post and we will index it ASAP.

Please include: Name, Address, Contact information, Type of Training (DIY, ect…) and client target population (Veterans, Hearing Impaired, Autism….).

Later I hope to include costs, waiting time, and other pertinent information. Thank you! to Maryann Helpern for researching and compiling this initial list.

Adler Assistance Dogs

Adlerdogs@aol.com

contact: Wendy Ender

Po Box 9728

Denver, Colorado 80209

Phone # 303-722-0327

 

AIM HI Service Dog Training center

(Animals in the military Helping Individuals)

North Plains District Vet. Command

Service Dog Center National Headquarters

833 McClellen Ave.

Fort Leavenworth,Kansas 66027

( military vets and their families only)

 

AIM HI Service DOg Training Center

CDR USA MEDDAC

Attn: MCVS ATA K

Pam Oughton, Director

Service Dog Training Center

Bldg.1489 Eisenhower Ave.

Fort Knox, Kentucky, 40121

phone# 502-624-8986

 

Alert Service Dogs

info @alertservicedogs.com

ASD,Inc.

9036 Buckeye Court

Indianapolis, Indiana, 46260

phone #- 800-518-1810

fax# 1-800-518-5144

 

Alpha K-9

Sacramento

info@alphak9.org

https://www.facebook.com/AlphaK9

7500 14th Ave.#21

Sacramento, California 95820

phone # 916-400-4337

 

Angel Service Dogs

PO Box 2756

Monument, Colorado,80132

 

Anything’s Pawzible

rendy@anythingispawzible.com

1330W North Ave,Chicago Illinois, 60622

phone#773-919-PAWS

 

Anything’s Pawzible

118 Madison ave

Cuyanoga Falls, Ohio

 

Arizona Goldens,LLC

AZGOLDENSLLC2COX.NET

PO Box 40776

Mesa,Arizona 40776

phone#480-205-6810

(emotional- autism service dogs)

 

Assistance Dogs of Hawaii

elena@interpac.net

PO Box 474

Hawi,Hawaii,96719

Phone# 808-889-0166

 

Barking Angels

www.barkingangelsservicedogfoundation

contact:Joe Giambione

7644 W.Dickens

Elmwood Park,Illinois 60707

Phone# 312-504-5225

 

Battle Buddies(USA)

www.battlebuddies.org

c/o Steven Frye

PO Box 922, Newport ,Rhode Island 02840

phone#

 

Battle Buddy Foundation

email

8859 Cincinnati_Dayton Rd. Suite 202

Olde West Chester, Ohio 45069

phone#

 

Blessings Unleashed Foundation

dana@blessingsunleashed.org

PO Box 1743

Glasgow, Kentucky 42142

phone # 270-670-4000

(autism service dogs)

 

Baltimore Service and assistance Dog Club

email-

6 St. Paul St. suite 902

Baltimore,MD 21202

 

 

 

Canadian Service Dog Foundation

www.servicedog.ca

address:

 

phone# 613-914-2733

 

 

Canines 4 Hope

Canines 4 Hope

Jason DeVito

Palm City, Florida

772-631-4931

 

Canine Angels Service Dogs
info@CanineAngelsServiceDogs.org
98 Shadow Moss Place
North Myrtle Beach, SC 29578
Phone | 917-575-6235
www.CanineAngelsServiceDogs.org

“We serve local veterans

in the coastal Carolinas and those

who can come here for training. ”

Canine Angels

info@canine-angels.org

Canine Angels

PO Box 526

Diamond Bar, CA 91765

Phone#1-888-541-846-6400

 

Canine Angels

info@canine-angels.org

Canine Angels

13475 N.Applegate Rd.

Grants Pass,OR 97527

phone#1-888-541-6400

 

Canine Battle Buddy

www.battle-buddy.org/

Canine Battle Buddy

8859 Cincinnati- Dayton Rd.Suite 202

Olde West Chester, Ohio 45069

phone#

 

Canine Companions for Independence

Debra Dougherty

North East Reg. training Facility

286 Middle Island Rd.

Medford,NY 11763

phone# 1-800-572-2275

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Canine Assistants

A non-profit organization that trains and provides service dogs to enhance and improve the lives of children and adults who have physical disabilities, seizure conditions or other special needs.
3160 Francis Road
Milton, Georgia 30004
770-664-7178
Toll Free: 800-771-7221
Fax: 770-664-7820

Addtional info: The PBS special, and the book it was based on, “Through a Dog’s Eyes,” was based on this organization.

&nbsp

Canine Companions For Independence

Nicole Mouton, Exec.Director,NW

PO Box 446

Santa Rosa,CA 94502

phone#1-800-572-BARK

 

Canine Companions for Independence

8150 Clarcona Ocoee Rd.

Orlando,Fla.

phone# 407-522-3300

 

Canine Companions For Independence

SW Campus

PO Box 4568

Oceanside CA 92052

phone#-760-901-4300 or 1-800-572-BARK

 

Canine Canine Partners of the Rockies

info@caninepartnersofthe rockies.org

Canine Partners of the Rockies

c/o Linda Port

PO Box 460214

Denver, CO 80246

phone# 303-364-9040

 

Canine Partners For Life

www.K94life.org

canine Partners for Life

PO Box 170

Cochranville,PA 19330

phone- 610-869-4902

Fax- 610-869-9785

 

Canine Working Partners

canineworkingcompanions.org/cwc

Canine working Partners

PO Box 2128

Syracuse, NY 13220

phone#-

 

 

Central Pennsylvania Animal Alliance

info@cpaa.info

1802 Silver Pine Cir.

Mechanicsburg, Pa,17050

phone#-717-732-0611

Coalition for the Empowerment of Patriots, Inc.
Pets Empowering Patriots Program (A service dog therapy program for Veterans with PTSD, TBI, MST and/or physical disabilities)
http://www.empoweringpatriots.org
info@empoweringpatriots.org
P.O. Box 117
Griffith, IN 46319
219.798.1212

Canines for Veterans

info@caninesforservice.org

Canines For Service

PO box 12643

Wilmington, NC 28405

phone# 910-362-8181 or 1-866-910-3647

Coalition for the Empowerment of Patriots, Inc.
Pets Empowering Patriots Program (A service dog therapy program for Veterans with PTSD, TBI, MST and/or physical disabilities)
http://www.empoweringpatriots.org
info@empoweringpatriots.org
P.O. Box 117
Griffith, IN 46319
219.798.1212

Companions For Heroes

INFO@companionsforheroes.org

Companions For Heroes

PO Bx 7328

Fairfax Station, Va. 22039

phone#1-866-701-7553

Daffron Doghouse
http://daffrondoghouseownertrainingprogram.yolasite.com/.
DaffronDoghouse Owner Training Program
daffrondoghouseownertrainingprogram.yolasite.com
Ph# 913-523-6034

Discovery Dogs

DiscoveryDogs@DoscoveryDogs.org

Discovery Dogs

c/oSheri Denhower

PO Box 6050

San Rafael,CA.94903

phone# 415-479-9557

Fax-415-472-4431

 

Dogs Ears& Paws

info@eenp.org

Dogs Ears & Paws

c/o Maria Ikenberry

PO Box 3443

Chapel Hill,NC 27515

phone#919-408-PAWS(7292)

 

Dogs Ears & Paws

info@dogsandpaws.com

Dogs Ears & Paws

c/o Debbie Winkler

5399 Enterprise St.

Sykesville,MD 21784

phone# 410-655-2858 or 410-552-5052

Dogs for the Deaf

Phone: (541) 826-9220 or toll free outside of Oregon 1-800-990-3647

Mail: 10175 Wheeler Road, Central Point, Oregon 97502
E-mail: info@dogsforthedeaf.org
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/DogsfortheDeaf

 

Canines for Service

PO Box 12643

Wilmington,NC 28405

phone# 1-866-9103647 or 910-362-8181

 

 

Dogs For Disabilities

info@dogsfordisabilities.com

Dogs for Disabilities

PO Box 537

Batavia,Ill. 60510

 

Dogs With A Mission

info@dogmission.com

Dogs With A Mission

c/o Jolanthe Wignholds

PO Box 40266

Washington,DC

phone# 202-669-8316

Fax 202-363-6595

 

 

Dogs Help

servicedogs@comcast.net

Dogs Help

c/o Myra Fourwinds

401 LaBore Rd #115

Little Canada, Minn. 55117

phone# 763-753-6260

 

Dublin Dog Foundation: Service Dog Charity

info@dublindog.com

Dublin Dog Foundation: Service Dog charity

1435 W. Morehead St.

Charlotte, NC

 

E.

 

Elite K-9 Academy

Jeanne or Nick Kutsukas

18291 126th Terr. N.

Jupiter, Fla.

phone# 561-575-3144

 

East Coast Asst.Dogs(Service Dogs)

ECAD1@aol.com

East Coast Assistance Dogs

Lu Picard

PO Box 831

Torrington, Connecticut 06790

phone# 860-489-6550

Fax- 860-489-3791

F.

 

Fidos for Freedom,Inc.

client services:clients@fidosforfreedom

Fidos for Freedom

1200 Sandy Springs,

Laurel,MD

phone# 410-880-4178 or 301-490-4005

Fax 301-490-0906

 

Freedom Service Dogs

info@freedomservicedogs.org

Freedom Service Dogs

2000 W.Union Ave.

Englewood,CO 80110-5567

phone-303-922-6231

Fax-303-922-6234

 

G.

 

Gold Str Dog Training

goldstar252@yahoo.com

Gold Star Training

c/o Eric Sanders

Parumph,Nevada, 89060

phone# 702-497-7229

 

Great Plains Assistance Dogs

gpad@daktel.com

Great Plains Assistance Dogs

c/o mike Goehring

PO Box 513

Jud, ND 58454

phone 701-685-2242

Fax- 701-685-2290

 

H.

 

Handi-Dogs(service dogs)

service@handi-dogs.org

Handi-Dogs

75 S.Montego Dr.

Tucson, Arizona 85710

phone-520-326-3142

fax- 520-319-8186

 

Happy Tails Service Dogs,Inc

c/o Joyce Weber

One West Sequoia Drive

Phoenix, Arizona 85027

phone# 623-580-0946

 

Hawaii Canines for Independence

Mauer@mauer.net

Hawaii Canines for Independence

c/o Mo Mauer

PO Box 790626

Pala, Hawaii 96779

phone#-808-250-5799

H4 – Hounds Helping Heroes Heal

(Creating a healthier future for U.S. Military Veterans who suffer from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and/or Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) by pairing them with an Emotional Support Animal (ESA) or PTSD Service Dog that has been rescued from a shelter.)

http://www.h4hero.com/

P.O. Box 153

Mansfield, TX. 76063

Email: info@H4hero.com

 

Hero Dogs- Service Dogs for america’s Heroes

hero@hero-dogs.org

Hero Dogs( service Dogs for America’s Heroes)

PO Box 64

Brookeville, MD 20833

Phone & Fax- 1-888-570-8653

 

I.

 

Independence Dogs

idi@netreach.net

Independence Dogs

c/o M.Jean King

146 State Line Rd.

Chadsford, PA 19317

Phone#610-358-2723

Fax-610-358-5314

 

k.

 

K-9 Service Dogs of New Jersey

K9chieftrainer@juno.com

K-9 Service Dogs of NJ

Oradell,NJ 07649

phone# 201-200-4368

Fax#-201-244-1117

 

Karosel Service Dogs

shirlee@bigsky.net

Karosel Service Dogs

c/o Shirlee Walker

4805 DesChamps Lane

Missoula, Montana 59808

phone# 406-543-7672

 

Keystone Human Services

mdehart@keystonehumanservices.org

Keystone Human Services

124 Pine Street

Harrisburg, PA 17101

phone# 717-232-7509

toll free- 1-800-377-6504

 

L.

 

Lonestar Assistance Dog Service(LADS)

LADS7612@charternet.net

Lonestar Assistance Dog Service

c/o Vivian Ausmus

PO Box 1528

Azle,Texas, 76098

phone#-817-249-8585

 

Loving Paws Assistance Dog

lvgpaws@lovingpaws.com

LOving Paws Assistance Dog

c/o Linda Jennings

PO Box 12005

SantaRosa,CA 94506

phone#707-586-0789

 

M.

 

Makana Aloha Foundation

Asst. Dogs of Hawaii

mo@assiatancedogsofhawaii.org

Makana Aloha Foundation

c/o Will & Mo Maurer

PO Box 1803

Makawao,Hawaii 96768

phone# 808-298-0167

 

Midwest Assistance Dogs,Inc.

c/o Mark Halasz

PO Box 1891

S.Bend Indiana,46634

phone# 574-272-7677

 

N.

 

Nanhall Training Center

c/o Frances Shatner Keys

2206 Martin Luther King Dr.

Greensboro, NC 27406

phone# 919-272-6584

 

New Horizons Service Dogs/the Lost Tree Charitable Fund

info@losttreefoundation.org

New Horizons Service Dogs

11520 Lost Tree Way

North Pam Beach, Fla. 33408

phone# 561-622-3780

Fax# 561-626-5885

 

New Life Mobility Assistance Dogs

newlife@NLMAD.org

NLMAD

PO Box 659

Moravian Falls, NC 28654

phone# 336-838-2215

 

Next Step Service Dogs

support@nextstepservicedogs.org

Next Step West Coast Chapter

PO Box 130487

Carlsbad,CA 92011

phone#768-438-9190 or 858-945-2455

Sally Montrucchio- training Dir. – West Coast leader

 

Next Step service Dogs

NJ Branch

no info

would call the west coast branch for info

 

North Star Foundation

www.northstardogs.com

northstarfoundation@charter.net

North Star Foundation

attn: Patty Dobbs Gross, Exec. Director

20 Deerfield Lane

Storrs, Connecticut,

phone31-860-423-0664

 

 

Northwest Battle Buddies

northwestbattlebuddies@gmail.com

Northwest Battle Buddies

PO Box 2511

Battle Ground, Washington,98604

phone#360-601-9744

 

P.

 

4 Paws for Ability

info@4pawsforability

4 pawsforability

253 Dayton Ave

Xenia,Ohio 45385

phone# 937-374-0385 or 937-708-6677

 

Paws Abilities

c/o Glen Martin

3735 Big Flat Rd.

Missoula,montana 59804

phone# 406-549-0221

 

Paws & Stripes

www.pawsandstripes.org

veterandogs@pawsandstripes.org

 

Paws for Freedom

lashearer1@yahoo.com

10580 Barkley St. suite 455

Overland Park,Kansas,66212

phone# 913-901-9400

 

Paws for Purple Hearts

sandra@pawsforpurplehearts.org

Paws for Purple Hearts

PO Box 50275

Arlington, VA 22205

phone#202-681-9575 or 707-238-5110

 

Paws for Purple Hearts

bonnie@pawsforpurplehearts.org

5860 Labeth Avenue suite A

Rohnert Park,CA 94928

phone# 202-681-9575 or 707-238-5110

 

Penny’s from Heaven Foundation,Inc.

www.pennysfromheavenfoundation.org

Penny’s from Heaven Foundation, Inc.

13423 Blanco Rd. Suite 218

San Antonio, Texas, 78216

phone#

 

Pets for Vets-Houston

contactforpetsforvetshouston.com

Pets For Vets

Jessica Devitt- Pres.

7941 Katy Freeway #175

Houston, Texas 77024

phone#713-364-6235

 

Pets for Vets-Chicago_Ill.

contact@chicagononprofit.org

Pets for Vets Chicago

345W. Canal St #C0001

Chicago,Illinois 60606

phone#312-583-7610

 

Pets for Vets-Wilmington,NC

pets-for-vets.com/

409 Black Diamond Drive

Wilmington,NC 28411

phone# I would call the Houston or Chicago #’s

as it looks like there are many divisios_ but not always full info. ( check for one near you)

 

Paws with a Cause

paws@alliance.net

Paws with a cause corp. office

1235 100th St S.E.

Bryon Center, Michigan 49315

phone# 616-696-0688 or 1-800-253-PAWS

 

Pro_Train

protrain@flash.net

Pro-Train

c/o Mark Castillo

1544 Avohill Dr.

Vista,CA 92084

phone# 877-223-3647

 

Puppies Behind Bars ( service dogs for vets)

puppiesbehindbars.com

Puppies Behind Bars

126 W 38th St. 4th floor

New York, NY 10018

phone# 212-680-9562 or 212-689-9330

 

Puppy Jake Foundation

Beckysbeach@aol.com

Puppy Jake Foundation

c/o Becky Beach

4020 John Lynde Rd.

Des Moines, Iowa 50312

phone# 515-490-9766

 

S.

 

Sam Simon Charitable Foundation

info@samsimonfoundation.org

Sam Simon Charitable Foundation

c/o Jannelle Hackman

30765 Pacific Coast Highway #113

Malibu, CA 90265

phone#-310-457-5898

(hearing dogs)

 

Semper Fido

Info@semperfido.org

Semper Fido

131 KenilworthRd

Marlton, NJ 08053

phone# 1-856-810-3923

 

Service Dog Express

Laurie@servicedogexpress.com

www.servicedogexpress.com

FB:Sevice Dog Express

Service Dogs Express

207 Willow Grove Drive

San Antonio,Texas 7824

phone#210-201-3641

 

Service Dogs For America

info@servicedogsforamerica.org

ServiceDogs For america

920 Short Street

Jud, NOrth Dakota 58454

 

Service Dogs of America

jackrayl@megiscounty.net

Service Dogs of America

c/o Pres. Jack Rayl

PO Box 228

Nitoa, Tennessee 37826

 

Service Dogs of Virginia

info@servicedogsva.org

Service Dogs of America

PO Box 408

Charlottesville, Va. 22902

phone# 434-295-9503

 

Service Dog Project

info@SERVICEDOGPROJECT.ORG

Service Dog Project

37 Boxford rd.

Ipswich, Maine 01938

Phone# 978-356-0666

 

Service Dog Training Programs

workinglikedogs.com

Working Like Dogs

PO Box 4578

Santa Fe, New Mexico 87502

phone# 1-866-445-3647

 

Service Dogs-Tackett Services

Tom@tackettservicedogs.com

Service Dogs-Tackett Services

PO Box 2461

Orange,CA 92859

phone#714-608-1077

 

Service Pets for Service Vets

RSMF.org/service

Pets for Service Vets

12 Port Access Rd.

Erie, PA 16507

phone#

 

Shore Service Dogs

info@shoreservicedogs.com

PO Box 2251

Salisbury, MD 21802

phone- cost too high for provider

please e-mail for info

 

Soldiers Best Friend_ Arizona

contact@asoldiersbestfriend.org

Soldiers Best Friend

5955 W.Peoria Ave.#6242

Glendale, Arizona,85312

phone#-480-269-1738

Fax-623-234-4815

 

St.Francis Service Dogs

info@stfrancisdogs.org

S. Francis service Dogs

PO Box 19538

Roanoke,VA 24019

phone# 540-342-3647(DOGS)

fax 540-342-0906

 

Sterling Service Dogs

info@sterlingservicedogs.org

Sterling Service Dogs

3715 E.Fifteen Mile rd.

Sterling Heights, michigan 48310

Phone#586-977-9716

Fax-

586-977-0079

 

Susquehanna Service Dogs

SSD@keystonehumanservices.org

Susquehanna service Dogs

555 LeSentier Lane

Harrisburg, PA 17112

phone#/fax-717-599-5920

 

 

T.

 

Tender Loving Canines-Service Dogs(TLCAD)

info@tlcad.org

TLCAD

PO Box 1244

Solana Beach,CA 92075

phone#1-800-385-1282

858-461-6827

Fax 858-461-6846

 

The Spirit Training Center- Home Of TLCAD

(all ifo above the same except address)

1250 Activity Drive Suite A

Vista, CA 92081

 

The Carlson Company(Service Dogs)

ccarlson@carlson.com

The Carlson Company

2305 Daniels st.

Madison Wisconsin,53718

phone#608-222-4540 ext.123

 

The Good Dog Foundation

info@thegooddogfoundation.org

The Good Dog Foundation

PO Box 1484

NY,NY 10276

phone# 888-859-9992

Fax-888-861-7312

 

U.

 

USA Battle Buddies

only info found is an e-mail address

usabattlebuddies@gmail.com

 

V.

 

Vets Adopt Pets(service dogs)

vetsadoptpets@gmail.com

Vets Adopt Pets

PO Box 15041

SanFrancisco, CA 94115

 

W.

 

WAGS/Vicon Kennels

C/o Connie Standley

36436 Calhoun rd.

Eustis, Florida 32736

phone: 352-482-3988

 

Warrior Dog Foundation

www.warriordogfoundation.org

warriorDog Fund

PO Box 108

Cooper, Texas 75432

phone#

 

Wilderwood Service Dogs

wilderwood@charter.net

www.wilderwood.org

Wilderwood Service Dogs

139 Tuckaleechee Tr.

Maryville,Tennesse 37803

phone#& fax 865-660-0095

Tiffany Denyer,Ex. Director

 

Wisconsin Academy for Graduate Service Dogs,Inc.

info@wags.net

WAGS

c/o Carla Coleman

1338 Dewey Circle

Madison,Wisconsin,53703

phone#608-250-9247

 

Wisconsin Correctional Liberty Dog Program

warden-Dan Bertrand-Daniel Bertrand@doc.state.wi.us

sister Pauline- siaterop@ime.net

Robert Kent -Robert Ken@doc.state.wi.us

Superintendent Bob Kent

Sanger B Powers Correctional

N8375 County Line Rd.Oneida, Wisconsin 54155-9300

Phone# 920-869-1095

 

Wounded Warrior Project

www.woundedwarriorproject.org

4899 Belfort Rd, Suite 300

Jacksonville, Florida 32256

Phone 877-team-WWP(832-6997

904-296-7350

fax-904-296-7347

There are about 15 contact offices in 15 states-

go to www.woundedwarriorproject.com

when in go to contact us: you will see the contacts

 

 

Thank you

20130819-102847.jpg

I get 1-2 requests a day from good people asking for different kinds of financial support, asking questions about how to obtain a service dog, requesting votes for an online contest, or raising support to pay for an assistance dog…

I live on a tight fixed income, but I’ve donated funds many times to help folks who love their dogs enough to have to swallow their pride and ask for outside help when they have no alternative. And I’ve put every one of those requests that seemed authentic on my twitter feed @veterantraveler for 70,000 others to see. I have watched closely and been pleased to see aid come in from friends online for worthy causes.

I’ve connected over a dozen people with advice and referred them on to service dog agencies. Several are waiting now for their companions.

I’ve asked you to support good causes by voting for credible and genuine friends like the Dogington Post as they supported Mill Dog Rescue. I hope we can continue those kinds of efforts.

In the future: I will refrain from soliciting votes for strictly vanity contests. I saw, through the Hero Dog Awards, the anger and discord they bring. I do want to help in events, like those sponsored by American Dog Magazine, where folks without a large support base, like us, can get recognized. And I always want to assist if one of our community members needs support for something worthy.

Gander’s Facebook wall, after the In Dogs We Trust book campaign, will continue to provide smiles and to act as a conduit for acts of kindness. That said, I think our time, money and talent should be respected and never exploited. Social media is in need of new ideas and better that better value us as people and not consumers. Social media needs a conscience check.

I was reluctant to engage friends here in my book campaign. For years I have avoided ads, solicitations and commercialism on all my feeds. I worked hard to build an online community I could learn from, not exploit.

But we have to start somewhere. And once the Indiegogo campaign finishes I hope we will just enough funds from the sale of the books and treats to sustain our charitable agendas: emotionally and physically wounded warriors susceptible to suicide, service dog access and canine rescue efforts.

I’ll be posting an article about our goals and how we plan to meet them next year. It will include visits to towns around America to teach children and small businesses about Service Dogs. And we will be visiting, as always, veteran memorials and resting places where we hope to offer up a twenty-one gun salute to homefront casualties of war: soldiers who have committed suicide. We want shed more light on these men and their stories in hopes of impacting treatment and reducing the shame of asking for help. We will play taps and fire off one shot to represent each one of the 21 vets who took their own lives that day. And we will talk to media and as many people as possible about the healing power of alternative therapies like service and emotional support dogs.

Nothing is ever expected of you here. Nothing. I’m honored to be able to share the adventures of a truly extraordinary dog and the wonderful people he meets. It is a triple pleasure to be part of these stories, share the tales with you and leverage any attention we might get into some measure of social good.

Thank you for all you have done …

IN DOGS WE TRUST: Support Page
http://veterantraveler.com/in-dogs-we-trust-support/

PTSD: Post Traumatic Sarcasm Display

I went through another evaluation this week at the VA. The exams themselves are pretty stressful and could aid or assassinate your disability rating.My diagnosis is older than the cavalry and I figure that telling the truth gives me less to to remember and then stress over….The VA uses a Global Assessment of Functioning Scale (GAF) in part to determine your disability level. The real scale goes like this:

91 – 100
Person has no problems OR has superior functioning in several areas OR is admired and sought after by others due to positive qualities

81 – 90
Person has few or no symptoms. Good functioning in several areas. No more than “everyday” problems or concerns.
71 – 80
Person has symptoms/problems, but they are temporary, expectable reactions to stressors. There is no more than slight impairment in any area of psychological functioning.
61 – 70
Mild symptoms in one area OR difficulty in one of the following: social, occupational, or school functioning. BUT, the person is generally functioning pretty well and has some meaningful interpersonal relationships.
51 – 60
Moderate symptoms OR moderate difficulty in one of the following: social, occupational, or school functioning.
41 – 50
Serious symptoms OR serious impairment in one of the following: social, occupational, or school functioning.
31 – 40
Some impairment in reality testing OR impairment in speech and communication OR serious impairment in several of the following: occupational or school functioning, interpersonal relationships, judgment, thinking, or mood.
21 – 30
Presence of hallucinations or delusions which influence behavior OR serious impairment in ability to communicate with others OR serious impairment in judgment OR inability to function in almost all areas.
11 – 20
There is some danger of harm to self or others OR occasional failure to maintain personal hygiene OR the person is virtually unable to communicate with others due to being incoherent or mute.
1 – 10
Persistent danger of harming self or others OR persistent inability to maintain personal hygiene OR person has made a serious attempt at suicide.

I checked with several vets and found that GAF corresponds loosely to disability rating as follows:

1-20 = 100% or $2,527 a month and free medical care at the VA

30-50 = 50-70% or $356 to $1,161 a month and free medical care at the VA

60 might rate you at 30% if other factors are an issue. That would give you 30% disability and $356 a month and limited care at the VA

So, you can see that the VA leprechauns guard the golden gates of Brigadoon pretty well…

So, time for a little fun…

I stumbled across several spoofs of the GAF as it relates to the VA and I decided to modify one for you. It is not to make light of the disorder, but to spoof a broken system. Like my mom used to say: You have to laugh to keep from crying…

VA GAF

91 – 100 Not much happening and you can tolerate most stress very easily. Your spouse is away for a couple of days and you sneak your dog into the bedroom. One of your kids is wearing his pants below his underwear, but still talks about going to Brown University.

81 – 90 Some minor setbacks. You are late with your AT&T bill but, screw ’em, they have turned into a monopoly again anyway. You have spent $300 more in overages on hold with the VA about your claim. You think Siri is beginning to understand your needs. The dog has wet on the bedroom carpet, but it is dark enough she’ll never notice.

71 -80 AT&T is texting you. You dictate replies to them through Siri. The teachers strike has the kids at home 24/7 and you tell them that if you hear Gotye one more time they will just be somebody that you used to know.

61 – 70 AT&T has discontinued service. Your artillery ears can barely hear the high pitched ringtone on your Cricket phone. The dog has hemorrhoids and drags his butt all the time. The kids duct-taped the neighbor boy to a stolen shopping cart, pushed him into the forest preserve pond and uploaded their Jackass spoof to Youtube. The police are trying to call your old number. You miss Siri: You wanted to ask her why a boxing ring is square.

51 – 60 Your kids have decided to enlist in the military in lieu of jail time. You and the dog howl in harmony. You’d play drinking games if there was any booze left. Cooking distracts you from NCIS and just isn’t worth the effort. The VA has told Homeland Security about your threats.

41 – 50 Your wife has decided to move back in with her dysfunctional family. The VA Homeless program will not accept you as long as you have 3 more months before your bank actually evicts you. You think you can teach the dog to dance and audition for America’s Got Talent. The sun is getting noisier every morning.

31 – 40 The only thing that gets you off the couch is chest pains. You are sure the dog is talking to the cat about you. You asked the cute activist next door to occupy your underpants. The police have your new number.

21 – 30 You siphoned gas from the neighbor’s leaf blower and are going to fix this problem once and for all. The ungrateful dog criticizes you on Twitter and your Klout score hits an all time low.

11 – 20 They move you to a facility where the WWII vets keep trying to get you to surrender. The VA finally approved your claim, but appointed your ex-wife as custodian of your affairs. She promises to give you money for Bingo. You start a blog, because the voices in your head NEED TO BE HEARD. They don’t change your diapers nearly as often as before.

0 – 10 The nurses refuse to take you to the bathroom until you stop yelling, “FIRE IN THE HOLE” and your kids have no more room in their closets for your Afghans sweaters. Your VA claims adjudicator is promoted to regional director for his efficiency. You and reality dissolve your civil union.

Dog Them….

“As soon as one promises not to do something, it becomes the one thing above all others that one most wishes to do.”
― Georgette Heyer

The conventions for America’s two biggest political parties are over. Despite the fact that Honey Boo Boo and NFL Football brought in bigger audiences, tens of millions tuned in to cheer, jeer or better understand who to vote for in November. Both conventions made frequent reference to American veterans and spoke with passion about their care and concern for military families and especially for those injured in service to America. Despite all the bi-partisan passion and genuine intentions the VA is getting worse, not better, at handling the needs of veterans. Much needed transitional aids are mired down in bureaucracy or about to eliminated altogether by the VA. Intentions do not equal action.

This week, the VA announced in the Federal Register, via 60+ pages, that it will no longer cover the cost of service dogs assigned to people with post-traumatic stress disorder. The VA claims there is not enough evidence to support the medical need for these dogs.

“Although we do not disagree with some commenters’ subjective accounts that mental health service dogs have improved the quality of their lives, VA has not yet been able to determine that these dogs provide a medical benefit to veterans with mental illness,” the VA said. Anyone who has worked in the field knows this is a baseless assertion. The real reason for eliminating the dogs is likely financial.

The Federal Register estimated that only 100 dogs would be certified this year when every service dog group I contacted said that growing demand already outstrips available resources. Just at Ft. Carson’s Wounded Warrior Program, says Diane Vertec of Freedom Service Dogs, “The population is growing exponentially. We feel like a dog can help a vet meet physical challenges but, more importantly, can really, really help them overcome a lot of the mental instability that they’re feeling.” FSD trains about 40-45 dogs per year and there are about 450 soldiers in the Wounded Warrior Battalion at Fort Carson.

In the Stars and Stripes, Lindsey Stanek, the CEO of Paws and Stripes, a New Mexico-based nonprofit dedicated to providing service dogs for military veterans, said she finds the Federal Register’s conclusions “preposterous,” adding that the demand among veterans for service dogs far outweighs VA estimates. “We have a wait list that exceeds 600, and we’re just one organization.” The rules will stay in effect until the VA has a chance to study the efficacy of service dogs in PTSD. By then, after adding on the 12-18 months of waiting time for a trained dog, a vet might be 4-6 years into his disability.

I called the VA last week to get in under the wire and get Gander covered by the program. After unsuccessfully querying to seven departments at a local VA Hospital I phoned the national medical information help line at the VA. The VA suggested I call the hospital. I then contacted my PTSD doctor and scheduled and appointment. She has long supported my need for a dog and has seen it change other veteran’s lives. She placed an order for evaluation with the prosthetics department who then scheduled me to be evaluated by the physical therapy department. After my evaluation, in October, physical therapy will send my requirements for a dog to the prosthetics department who will then send it on to the VA in Washington, DC. The VA will decide whether or not I should have a dog. If approved, the prosthetics department will then “order” the dog I will already have by that time. This might all be moot anyway if the regulation goes into effect at the end of this month.

The VA does not pay for the dog, which Freedom Service Dogs spends $20-25,000 dollars to train. But, they will cover major medical issues for Gander. The hospital explains it like this: The dog is equipment and they don’t pay for routine maintenance, buy will repair “it” if it breaks. And if a vet’s heart is broken by the loss of his equipment?

So,there is no money. Veterans can train their own battle buddies, right? Not so. The VA also proposes to block non certified dogs admission to its facilities. Those dogs who have helped vets carry oxygen bottles, or detect seizures are equipment non-gratis in the hospital . No attempt was made by the legal beagles who drafted the document to provide for those veterans who depend on their companions and rarely leave home without them.

Illinois defines a Service Animal this way:
“The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) defines a service animal as any guide, signal dog, or other animal individually trained to provide assistance to a person with a disability. An animal fitting this description is considered a service animal under the ADA regardless of whether the animal is licensed or certified by state or local government.” There are stiff fines for refusing service to a disabled person with a service animal regardless of its certification. The VA sees it differently.

To make matters worse: The Tampa VA has been working with several Assistance Dogs of America certified trainers and providing some cash to agencies if they will participate in a multi-year study program. The VA has foisted several unrealistic expectations on trainers like requiring them to sign documents stating their dogs will not misbehave during their placements. Some trainers are considering opting out of the study because the VA has also tried to micromanage their programs.

Jonathan Swift said that promises and pie-crust are made to be broken. I say that if politicians push veterans out on the front lines of their re-election battles, the least they can do is turn intentions into fulfilled promises.
Help them here:
I have put up petition at Change.org Please sign

;

You can read more about m journey to get a service dog here: http://veterantraveler.com/service-dog

Climbing back up to grace…

The ideal man bears the accidents of life with dignity and grace, making the best of circumstances.
–Aristotle

I woke today morning and performed a task as routine as morning ablutions: I opened my phone browser to Yahoo! Sports in search of the leaderboard for today’s Deutsche Bank golf tournament. I will explain: I did this every time Tiger played when I lived in China. It was a way, like music and bootleg movies, for me to stay tethered to something wholly American. Tiger was part of America’s sports greatness and he was a symbol of how I felt about my country.

The young LT. as budding golfer

I am one of the world’s worst golfers. No, really. I started the game in hopes of finding a way to “quiet the machine” and relax with the help of a sport that rightfully is known as a good walk spoiled. I had not thought of it as much of a sport until I learned it was easier to navigate a leech infested swamp at night with an M-16 above my head than to putt a tiny white ball into a PVC drain pipe. But, I digress…

Tiger Woods, son of a Special Forces Major, single-handed turned golf into an muscular, precision pursuit of excellence. Sure, John Daly could guzzle a beer, put his garish pants on backwards and hit 7 balls between cigarettes father than any other golfer on the tour, but Tiger was the one to watch. And people did it in such numbers that people who had never watched were devoted to golf where before they might have preferred to watch weeds grow in a vacant lot.

When Tiger’s life landed in the rough I couldn’t wait for the public to begin judging him again for his athletic prowess instead of his celebrity moral failings. He literally limped along for a couple of years as I continued to hope that rumors of his death were digitally exaggerated.

On my recent trip to Detroit I visited Piquette Square for Veterans. It is an apartment complex built on the site of an old auto factory. It gives permanent shelter to veterans who

Honor Guard at the Piquette Center mugging for the camera

At the center, I was introduced to Coniel Norman,a veteran and peer counselor employed by the VA to assist homeless vets there. I instinctively knew there was back story here. Coneil had just told me he attended the University of Arizona in the early seventies and I guessed by his height and powerfully large hands that he had been a basketball player. I just didn’t know how great an athlete he had been: Coneil, whose nickname was “popcorn” due to his rapid-fire accuracy, is still Arizona’s record holder for points scoring average in a season. He was drafted in the NBA’s second round and played three seasons: Two with the 76ers and then one with the San Diego Clippers, after a two year stint in the Continental Basketball Association (CBA). After being released by the Clippers in 1979, Norman enlisted in the military and served four years. He left in 1983 and then played professional basketball in Europe for seven seasons. The man who was once lauded by an opposing coach ( he described Coniel Norman as the “finest pure shooter” he had ever seen), saw his basketball career end when he was injured in a serious car accident on the Autobahn.

Time passed and Coneil eventually lost his way via drugs and alcohol. Homeless, he reached out to his family who supported him through rehabilitation. He now lives and works at the Veterans Center.

When you are one of the best at what you do, there is little place to go but down. And the people who cheered your successes are not always there when you descend. Worse yet, they turn their disappointment into anger and add considerable weight to to the already heavy burden that is recovery from injury, personal loss, or misdeeds.

That Tiger has won more events this year than the average professional can hope for in a lifetime of golf, while under such close scrutiny and subject to such blistering critique (just read some of the comments below any Yahoo! article on Woods), is a triumph on its own merits. Even if he fails to live up to fan and sports writer expectations by surpassing Jack Nicklaus for the number of majors won, his achievements are legendary and his records will likely stand long after his detractors have left this life. Hoping one day to see him play.

Coneil’s impact on the world now extends beyond the record board at Arizona. There will be veterans who will remember him as someone who returned hope and sobriety to their lives. I could not be prouder that I was able to shake the hand of an ideal man.

—————————————————-

;

;

Today’s call to action is a little selfish for the first time in 9 years of blogging: I could use a little help in getting to Denver to pick up Gander: http://Indiegogo.com/veterantraveler/

Take a Gander…

“Dogs are minor angels…”

–Jonathan Carroll

It seems including a service dog in my logo wasn’t just wishful thinking: I was on my way home from watching Frank & Robot yesterday when I received a call from Freedom Service Dogs in Denver telling me I was soon to be blessed with a new traveling companion. It was a touch of synchronicity, because the film was, in part, about companionship and our dependence on others, no matter how tough or self reliant we imagine ourselves to be…

I have had a series of best friends of different breeds. My dogs and I have always viewed the world together with a slight turn of the head before heading off together to enjoy a quiet walk in the woods or a sunset over the lake. Dogs are charitable sidekicks: always seeming to know what not to say at just the right time.

This will be new for me. Unconditional love is part of a dog’s DNA, so I feel a little guilty about asking more of a friend who, even without training, will do more for me than I will ever do for him.

FSD tells me that Gander is the name of my PTSD savvy buddy-to-be. He is a chocolate, mixed breed who was rescued from a shelter before being enlisted in the service and trained by FSD’s extraordinary team of handlers.

FSD was founded in 1987 by P.J. and Michael Roche after a disabling car accident that personally informed them about the tremendous need for canine helpers. The program has strategic alliances with the VA, Denver University’s Institute for Human/Animal Connection and the Graduate School of Social Work and Assistance Dogs International a training standards organization.

I was in China and in the midst of my physical and PTSD symptoms worsening I found myself rescuing local strays and in doing so I noticed improvement in my affect and mobility. I had seen videos of pets being brought to nursing homes and prisons to combat depression, but I had no idea that it was a fast evolving treatment strategy in the U.S. for veterans. Soon after, I watched a video about FSD and began to explore the possibility of a service dog for myself. I was sure that a match for me would be life changing.

FSD answered my email the same day and I downloaded the application. FSD is appropriately cautious and very thorough. Each of the 35-40 dogs they train each year costs from $20-25,000 for its 9-12 months of specialized training and is then gifted, at no cost, to the veteran. Before receiving a dog, the recipient must meet eligibility requirements, wait 12-18 months for a match and then attend three weeks of training with handlers and the dog.

The professional staff considers themselves to be”dog people” first and foremost. That means each veteran sign contracts that call for high-level care of the service dog. FSD makes a lifetime training and care commitment to both the dog and his human.

The application process was a several week journey for me. I secured the required medical evaluation and certification from my VA doctor, finished my personal statement, and took it with me to FSD in Denver for the required face-to-face interview and matching procedure. For matching, the handlers brought in poodles, labs, and a gentle giant of a dog they appropriately called Zeus. They watched carefully to see how dogs and I got along. I not-so-secretly hoped for a black lab. But, one look at Gander’s intelligent, confident, scruffy face yesterday and I couldn’t remember why I wanted a different breed of dog.

I will be heading for Denver in September to meet and attend school with Gander. In the interim, he is being taught to to do specific tasks the team identified for me:

  • Retrieving items to my hand
  • Turning lights on when I enter my house
  • “Check it out” or “clear the room”: Having him check for anyone else that might be there.
  • Find the phone to retrieve it in an emergency situation.
  • Find a person when needed
  • Brace to get up: He will help me get back up if I fall. (When I first spoke to FSD I had real trouble with autoimmune arthritis issues. They are better now. )
  • Block/Post: He will stand in front or behind me to create “safe” space in public
  • Lean and interact: He will lean on me to keep me grounded and attending to what is around me. I hear he loves to lean in and kiss…
  • He will interact with me in ways that will help pull me out of night terrors or nightmares
  • He will heel very close to my right leg (it is usually the left) when I am walking so that he can help me walk across pedestrian bridges and stay more in the middle away from real or imagined danger
  • My life has already changed. I’m walking a little brisker and I’m attending to people with dogs the way an expectant father cops at infants in the supermarket. School in Colorado can’t get here fast enough. As Corey Ford said: “Properly trained, a man can be dog’s best friend.”
    My indiegogo campaign for Gander:
    http://indiegogo. com/veterantraveler

I will be telling you more about my minor angel in weeks to come. In the meantime, please follow FSD on Twitter: http://twitter.com/freedomsvcdogs and visit their service dog website to see how you might help.

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Running Into the Line of Fire

I drove to Chicago from Detroit this past week with corrective lenses though which my inner eyes could finally see a Midwest America. Six months ago my view was a distorted one, fed by television images of inner city violence and despair : From the highway Gary Indiana and Detroit all you see are the burned out dreams and bankrupt ambitions of the lunch bucket America of which I was so proud of in my youth.

Most people don’t get dare to get out of their cars in either city for fear of surrendering what little hope they might have left in their own ability to survive this time of angry divisions and doubts about a secure future. When Casinos and prisons are the only monuments to progress you can see, It’s probably best to put them in your rear view mirror. Or so I thought…

Flags everywhere were at half mast in memory of those murdered in Aurora. It was a five hour funeral procession of quiet cars and maybe I projected my own grief on truck stop patrons and restaurant workers, but it was a deeply somber day it seemed for all of America. And for one sad second I was grateful for a national tragedy that finally had us agreeing on something. Queen Elizabeth said on the occasion of Princess Diana’s death that grief is the price we pay for love. But, how we grieve and how we respond to crisis is what makes all the difference.

The stories of heroism in Colorado outnumber the tales of fear and flight. A soldier laid down his life for his girlfriend, a wounded victim helped rescue a mother and her child after her boyfriend fled, police and firemen hurried into the chaos despite not knowing if it was still safe to enter the theater.

Victor Frankel, a concentration camp survivor and eminent psychotherapist, believed we are hardwired to respond certain ways to danger and difficulty. There are children on the beach who will run at the sight of on oncoming wave, others will throw themselves into the water with screams of delight and a few, paralyzed by indecision will sit down and cry.

Frankl also spoke of what rescues us in times of chaos and oppression: a decision to help others through difficult times. Those that survived Nazi cruelty were those who spent their time in service to others. It is the most powerful of paradoxes: Altruism nourishes us like no food can and while we are giving of our time and talent for the betterment of others. In this digital age we can positively act out of character and defy our genetic leanings. There is little to fear.

Stories will follow soon of people I met who are brick, by brick, rebuilding Detroit. And the work I saw being done by community organization like Southwest Solutions serving people from every demographic. They sense a need and search for solutions confident the resources will emerge to further their work. The apartment complex they constructed for Veterans should be a national model for returning warriors who lost their way home to dignity and productivity.

The purpose of this blog and my proposed trip across America became clearer in Detroit. It is not enough to chronicle the stories and successes of vets and vet groups. We are all united in our love for America, despite our political animosities; With the Olympics on this week, despite the failings of NBC, we are galvanized in our desire to elevate the status of our country in the eyes of the world; and the vast majority of Americans believe that veterans are worthy of salvage. That the all volunteer military pays its troops, that a Veterans Administration exists to care for those who served, that vets seem to be afforded discounts and courtesies civilians are not , should not blind us to their needs. It is not a level playing field: The VA is dangerously inept, only 3% of vets are finishing college after service, tens of thousands are in long lines waiting for benefits or medical care promised to them, discounts are only given when a service can be bought in the first place and while pay for officers is at acceptable levels our enlisted soldiers often live paycheck to paycheck with little to show for a hitch in the service beyond medical and psychological problems that impact them for a lifetime.

So, future these tales here will all contain a call to action of some kind. A way for us to contribute to something reconstructive, something good for veterans, a way to come together, if only for a brief moment, to improve the quality of our lives by recognizing the sacrifices of others. We can safely run into the line of fire to help those who did it for us.

To paraphrase Adrian Cronauer, the Armed Forces DJ whose story inspired Good Morning Vietnam,our flag, at half mast this week, did not represent a political point of view. Tragedy should not need to be the precursor for fraternity. The flags of mourning and draped over the shoulders of our athletes are symbol of our national unity. As should be every veteran who has ever donned a uniform in service to their country.

Today’s call to action: A daughter’s petition to the VA: a request for them to accelerate a benefit decision about a Vietnam Vet dying of liver cancer possibly linked to Agent Orange exposure.

http://www.change.org/petitions/veterans-affairs-approve-the-liver-transplant-of-vietnam-veteran-lucius-littlejohn#

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