News and Publicity
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Healing the Unseen Wounds of War
look at Mya P.*, you’d never know she was a U.S. Army veteran, let
alone a combat medic who once spent her days tending to Iraqi
detainees while under the threat of attack. The soft-spoken 29 year
old barely clears five feet in height and exudes a quiet, gentle
demeanor as she interacts with the other veterans and store patrons
around her. “As a soldier, you don’t want people to see your soft
side,” she said.
You would also never know by looking at Mya’s bright smile and ease in front of the camera that only months earlier she was spending most days isolated in her room, that she hated having her picture taken, and that she couldn’t bear to be around large crowds of people without the buffer of—literally—a mask: During her hometown’s Veteran’s Day parade this year, she donned a lion mascot costume as a layer of protection in order to attend. “Military holidays are harder than others,” she said. “I was scared to be around people; [the costume] made me feel more comfortable to be there.” [ Read More ]
Veterans Get By With A Little Help From Man’s Best Friend
By Courtenay Verret
the backdrop of taxidermied wildlife, camouflage sportswear, and
camping gear, a group of war veterans—young and old—circulates
around the main floor of Cabela’s sporting goods store with a look
of concentration in their eyes. Each vet focuses on his or her
partner and, together, they practice the skills they have learned
and refined over the previous months. There is a gentle touch. A
command. A reward.
There is also praise. Lots and lots of praise.
Accompanying these veterans are no ordinary companions. These are service dogs from the Train a Dog, Save a Warrior (TADSAW) program based in San Antonio, Texas, and today they are finally testing their skills for certification. Although they are fresh out of boot camp, these animals have already begun to change the lives of their new handlers in extraordinary ways.
For many of these veterans, all of whom suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), the idea of being in a public space was not, until recently, in the realm of possibility. Army veteran Jason Thomas explained that even a simple trip to the grocery store once caused him untold anxiety, resulting in a crippling isolation. Since being paired with his service dog Delta, however, Thomas has not only begun to venture to restaurants and grocery stores but also recently attended a Green Bay Packers game with his father. “I’m getting to live a normal life again,” he said. [ Read More ]
Train a dog, save a warrior
Two BARK dogs head for ‘Boot Camp’
By Carol Spicer
The Clifton Record
Lisa Williams, a dog trainer for the Train a Dog, Save a Warrior program has visited with David Sager at the local Bosque Animal Rescue Kennels prior to her visit on Tuesday, when she came to pick up the two dogs going into the program.
Williams had picked out Lindy and Holly when BARK offered the donation of dogs to the program, and already knows a veteran who may receive one of the two dogs – after specialized training.
Williams explained that the dogs will first be basically trained by her in specific commands for specific needs, then both the veterans and the dogs are trained together, prior to any permanent home being located for each dog.
“We make sure that the veteran and the dog are a perfect match for each other, and that both are fully trained prior to any permanent situation,” said Williams. She noted that usually the program works with dogs that are at least a year old and train them fully for different uses.
The program information gives the following as to how TADSAW STSD service dogs can help: “A rescue dog from a shelter or the warrior’s own personal dog, if deemed appropriate in temperament, demeanor, and size, will be evaluated, enter Boot camp, and be trained specific commands for specific needs of a wounded warrior with PTSD.
Once trained, these dogs have the ability to decrease isolation of the veteran, decrease the needs for many medications, decrease anxiety and panic attacks when in crowded public places, awaken them from nightmares and flashbacks, ‘have their backs’ when necessary, to name but a few. The result is a positive, non judgmental, unconditional relationship desperately needed by both. These dogs can quite literally become a serviceman’s or servicewoman’s best friend.
A short answer as to the why and how is that petting a dog decreases release of cortisol and increases release of oxytocin into the bloodstream. Decreases in cortisol lower blood pressure and facilitate a sense of relaxation, while increases in oxytocin, this same chemical released when a mother nurses her infant, will facilitate a sense of security and well-being.
For warriors with PTSD, it has been documented that a dog helps with emotional regulation. Patients who are very anxious and have anger issues find they can’t work with a dog if they yell. They must have a calm voice. Working with a dog helps build confidence and bridge the gap with strangers. More often than not the response and the bond is immediate.
TADSAW has found that a great majority of the warriors with PTSD choose a shelter dog because they want 'to save something’. They may choose a dog with an injury because they have an injury too. They are both healing. They fit together. They are a team.
This extensive and costly training is at no charge to the warrior and his dog, with training lasting 3-4 months at the least. Once training is completed and the American Kennel Club’s Canine Good Citizenship classification is awarded to the team, and after intensive training to meet the specific needs of the specific warrior, the dog will be eligible for service dog designation, according to the American Disabilities Act.
The team will carry the necessary health certificates and documentation and will be able to accompany the warrior to stores, restaurants, living accommodations, and permitting full access to any and all places the warrior wishes to visit.
“For hundreds of wounded veterans, the long walk to recovery is often a lonely one. A long walk is something most dogs love,” said a TADSAW spokesman.
“We are very proud to be able to find a couple of dogs in BARK that are able to be donated, trained and used in the veterans’ program,” said BARK President Nancy Benda.
Aegis Communications Group Hires Team
Wounded Warrior Gets New Battle Buddy
Air Force wounded warrior has a new buddy that is helping him cope with
his physical and mental pain, thanks to the
Train A Dog - Save A Warrior program.
Staff Sgt. Andrew Goligowski struggles with post-traumatic stress and the pain caused by sarcoidosis, a disease with no cure that causes inflammation in the lymph nodes, organs, joints, and other tissues. For Goligowski, the disease strikes his joints at times making it painful to even bend his arms, and causes masses in his lungs making it difficult to breathe.
Goligowski was serving as a military training instructor with the 321st Training Squadron at Lackland Air Force Base, Texas, when his symptoms began. Once a military working dog handler with four combat deployments under his belt, Goligowski was not only in pain, but he became withdrawn and depressed, and needed help.
[ Read More ]
Texas Animal Hall of Fame Salutes Colonel
Colonel, TADSAW's three-legged German shepherd mix who was almost
euthanized last year, has received a statewide honor for working as a
therapy dog to help wounded and injured veterans.
The Colonel will officially be inducted into the TEXAS ANIMAL HALL OF FAME on Sunday, December 9th, at the VFW Post in San Antonio, TX, said Leah Ann Tibbitts, director of the Texas Veterinary Medical Foundation, which announced the recognition. Aside from providing comfort and inspiration, Colonel, a therapy dog with the Train a Dog — Save a Warrior program, also brings camaraderie to amputees, having lost his left rear leg, Tibbitts said. [ Read More ]
TADSAW is extremely pleased to have been selected from throughout the United States to be the first 'Partner' on KONG'S TREATS new facebook page. They will be providing treats for our certified teams and Kongs for our warrior's service dogs. Thank you KONG!!!
TADSAW Secial Project Director and Public Relations was interviews by Fuzzy Manning - Alternative Specialist, Radio Show Host, Author, Speaker, & Founder/CEO of PTS Treatment & R.E.S.P.O.N.D. Warrior Reintegration. The hour long interview focused solely on the benefits of service/therapy dogs with our military with PTSD/TBI/MST.
For further information:
PTS Treatment - Offering Integrative Trauma Care
"When your life matters, we listen!"
R.E.S.P.O.N.D. Warrior Reintegration - Offering Re-Entry Survival Teams
"Your re-entry into civilian life matters!"
Lives of Heroes, Felons Changed
Program pairs service dogs and soldiers with PTSD
By Shannon Beck
The Rolla Daily News
native and Army Specialist Ray Spadoni strolls through life with a grin
on his face, charismatically making friendly conversation with everyone
he meets, giving no signs of the imprint left on him by the atrocities
But, the imprint exists. It manifests itself in both physical pain and, like so many other men and women returning from Iraq and Afghanistan, emotional pain.
"Not all wounds are visible," he said.
Thanks to a new partnership being formed, Spadoni is now getting help from some unexpected places – a convicted murderer, a rapist and an Italian Mastiff named Sophia.
The San Antonio-based Train a Dog, Save a Warrior program is teaming up with a Missouri Department of Corrections program called Puppies for Parole.
Puppies for Parole allows convicted felons in Missouri's prison's to take on a shelter dog, care for it, be responsible for it and train it, making it a better dog for a new family and giving the felon a new outlook on life.
TADSAW matches veterans suffering from post traumatic stress disorder with service dogs to help them cope and rediscover life after war, and Spadoni is one of the first soldiers at Fort Leonard Wood to be matched with a dog through a newly formed local branch of the foundation which organizes and pays for the training needed to transform these dogs from pets to service animals. The average cost is between $2,500 and $5,000 per dog.
The foundation was recently invited to the Pentagon to talk about their work.
"TADSAW was one of four service dog organizations recently invited to the Pentagon to talk about this (PTSD and service dogs), so it's definitely on their radar," Susan Hinkle said. "They know it is an issue."
Hinkle is responsible for contacting the foundation's creator and implementing the local chapter for Fort Leonard Wood soldiers and other local veterans.
The organization's literature prominently features an anonymous soldier talking about how PTSD has manifested in their life, keeping them from their children's soccer games, not wanting to go to restaurants, suffering from vivid flash-backs at night, excessive drinking and even suicidal tendencies.
According to the Pentagon, suicide deaths associated with PTSD symptoms and treatments outnumbered total combat deaths in Iraq and Afghanistan as of June, 2011.
Spadoni's exact diagnosis has been different between the three doctors he has spoken to, but he can certainly identify with the sleeplessness of the soldier in the organization's brochure. He is hoping Sophia, his TASDAW service dog, will help him rest, and achieve an overall calm that the war took from him.
Spadoni said. "You can loose part of your psyche in war because you
have no reminders of innocence in war. The dogs give you that reminder."
Spadoni spoke candidly about the things he saw during his most recent deployment to Iraq in 2010 including women drinking out of drainage ditches amid feces, bestiality and a disregard for human life.
While he prefers not to talk about it, he was also physically wounded during that same tour of duty. As a combat medic he was participating in a convoy escort in March, 2010 when he encountered an improvised explosive device.
The results are ongoing problems with his knees and spine.
While his new service dog won't be able to heal that pain, Spadoni says more and more soldiers are turning to man's best friend to heal PTSD and other long-lasting psychological affects of war.
"It's amazing how many soldiers are taking to service dogs," he said. "It's like a custom-made best friend that understands you and you understand them, and no one else has to know. It's just a bond between two entities."
Spadoni met his "custom-made best friend" for the first time Wednesday.
It was love at first sight, as Spadoni spotted Sophia's shiny brindle coat from across a gymnasium. The encounter left him with an ear-to-ear grin.
Sophia may change Spadoni's life, but he won't be the first heart she has touched.
She is a two-year-old Italian Mastiff who was turned over to the Texas County Humane Society after three different families attempted to provide her with a home. The Humane Society then sent her to the Puppies for Parole program at South Central Correctional Center in Licking for training.
When she arrived at the prison she was handed over to Patrick L. Edmonds who is serving a 23 year sentence for forcible rape and his cellmate, Darren Molitor who is serving a life sentence for first degree murder.
The titles of murderer and rapist hardly seem to match with a title of good Samaritan, but humane society volunteers and workers involved with the puppies for parole program see them as the later.
The pair see the program not as benefiting themselves, but as a way
to contribute back to a society most people see them as only taking
"I really just look at this as an opportunity for the dogs more so than anything to do with me," Edmonds said. "I just look at it as an opportunity to save the life of a dog."
Molitor has only been with the Puppies for Parole program for two weeks, but says it has already made an impact on him.
"This is really all new for me, but I'm caring about something other than myself," he said.
During Sophia's four week stay at SCCC, she has slept in a cell with Molitor and Edmonds who have been responsible for her care including exercise, potty breaks and feeding. Edmonds has also been training Sophia to pass a canine good citizen class. He and about a dozen other inmates meet with Recreational Officer and dog trainer Laurie Barnaba once a week for training sessions with their dogs.
Barnaba not only sees remarkable progress in the dogs, but also in the prisoners in the program.
She tells a story about one prisoner who came into the program with anger management issues so bad she was fearful he did not belong in the program at all. Within weeks she says he proved her wrong.
"Within about three weeks of being in the program, this person you would not have recognized as being the same person," she said. "He was one of the first ones that would be a very abrasive, aggressive personality that changed totally into the most caring father figure that I have seen come through the program."
Spadoni's visit also gave him the opportunity to talk to Barnaba about what he wanted Sophie to gain from the program and to Molitor and Edmonds about her personality and the commands she already knows.
Sophia still has a few weeks worth of work to do before Spadoni can take her home.
After leaving the prison she will be equipped to not only pass the canine good citizen test but also pass a test qualifying her as a service dog.
With that certification under her belt she will be able to stay by Spadoni's side anytime, anywhere. If he encounters a stressful situation, like a loud noise, she will be there to calm and soothe him. As he puts it, she will allow him to lead a "normal" life.
He hopes people realize that not everyone with a service dog is blind or has seizures.
He says service dogs are becoming more and more common for soldiers diagnosed with PTSD.
"I have a feeling you are going to start seeing a lot more therapy dogs and service dogs in the near future as soon as Afghanistan starts winding down, and people need to get a basic understanding because they are federally mandated to go wherever you go, and if people don't understand that they better get used to the idea," Spadoni said.
Hike Supports TADSAW
Lisa decided to use her journey to raise money for a worthy charity. She scheduled a kickoff party in her Manhattan neighborhood; and I was thrilled to be able to join her. There is some irony that a month (or in my case a week) in the wilderness living out of a backpack would be launched from an Irish pub on the upper east side of Manhattan but there we were!
The charity Lisa has selected to raise money for is called ”Train a Dog – Save a Warrior“, or TADSAW. This program trains service dogs to be “battle buddies” to wounded warriors, active duty military, and veterans suffering from PTSD, traumatic brain injury, and Military Sexual Trauma. These conditions affect a very high percentage of returning soldiers.
Now, with the help of these trained dogs, a flashback nightmare can be detected and short-circuited, a panic attack can be averted, and a shell-shocked life on the fringe can be improved.
The night of Lisa’s kickoff party she raised enough money to fund the complete training and placement of a dog with a veteran…quite possibly saving the life of a soldier! Donations continue to roll in and she is turning her 30 day “walk in the woods” into a gesture that will improve the quality of people’s lives.
Love the work you all do! Just wrote a post in my blog about your
organization and how my hiking partner on the Appalachian Trail is
raising money for you!
http://tonemanblog.com/ The post address is
TADSAW thanks GATESVILLE, TEXAS for their support
of our mission.
This HUGE billboard means a great deal!
School Scolded for Turning Away Pit Bull:
Army Veteran With PTSD Could Sue
by Karen Grace / KENS 5
Baloo is a pit bull who has been specially trained to help his master cope with post traumatic stress disorder.
Even on a calm afternoon at a duck pond, the dog must stay by retired Army veteran Andy Jones' side.
"He's my battle buddy," Jones said. Because at any time, Jones could have a panic attack and flashbacks of the battlefield in Iraq.
Even though Baloo was wearing his official vest and a pack with medications and certification papers, Jones was turned away from visiting his son Monday morning at Forester Elementary in the Northside ISD.
The district says that all service dogs are welcomed and that this should not have happened.
"We understand the law," said Pascual Gonzalez, NISD spokesman. [ See video ]
Current Health Kids Has Bunky Article
S.A. Veteran Harassed Because of Service Dog
SAN ANTONIO -- An Army veteran and current UTSA graduate student
claims she’s been discriminated at the downtown campus twice and it
relates to having a service dog.
[ See video ]
Man's Best Friend Helps Soldiers With PTSD
According to the Veteran’s Administration, 800,000
returning soldiers from Iraq and Afghanistan have been diagnosed with
post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)—and less than half will get the
help they need. But lately, these soldiers are getting a little help
from man’s best friend.
[ Read more ]
Until Tuesday Author Speaks
The author of UNTIL TUESDAY, Luis Carlos Montalvan and his service dog Tuesday, were in San Antonio to speak to our TADSAW in training service dog teams! Rudy's Barbeque in Leon Springs provided the perfect atmosphere and as always, their delicious barbeque. Each warrior in attendance received an autographed copy of UNTIL TUESDAY!
It was a perfect South Texas afternoon. It was fun for our warriors to meet each other and of course the dogs were perfect!!!
Service Dogs Organization Now Helping Vietnam Veterans
Local Soldier Fighting PTSD
Soldiers With PTSD Get Help From Dogs
Copyright 2011 by KSAT.com.
his 10-year military career Dustin Fleenor was exposed to mortar blasts,
one that broke his back and left him blind in his right eye. Fleenor ran
missions around the clock and is reluctant to recall a riot that broke
out at a POW camp. "That's why I quit sleeping because I could see these
things going on all the time," Fleenor said.
Upon returning home to his wife and four children, Fleenor was diagnosed with severe Post-traumatic stress disorder. "It's been like she's had five kids, me included as one of those kids, because she's had to take care of me too," Fleenor said.
Afraid his anxiety might overtake him at any time, Fleenor couldn't go anywhere alone. Meeting his service dog "Todd" was life changing. "He jumped on my lap, completely was licking me all over, and was like I've been waiting for you my whole life, where have you been," Fleenor said.
Their connection was immediate. Fleenor explains Todd has a way of sensing his anxiety, even absorbing it, something people can't do for him. "He backs up against me, and Todd starts getting real confused and all of a sudden I can back up into a corner. I start petting Todd for a couple minutes and all of a sudden it's gone," Fleenor said.
Bart Sherwood, director of "Penny's From Heaven Foundation," said the dogs have a way of relating to the warriors in a way people can't. "These dogs read the warriors so much better than their human counterparts, and they don't question, it's unconditional, it's non-judgmental," Sherwood said.
His hope is that the program doesn't just change the lives of the soldiers, but that it also restores it.
COURTESY ONE FOR ALL: U.S. Coast Guard Lt. Jamie Koppi, with Buddy her 7- year-old pug, will take part in the Paws for Penny Fun Run. Photo: COURTESY Kelli Rawls / HC
For a man or woman suffering from Post
Traumatic Stress Disorder, it's not a matter of taking life
one day at a time; it can come down to getting through one
minute at a time.
"Our primary function is to get these guys and gals out of this hell they are in," Swendson said.
Earlier this year, the organization's
efforts caught the eye of Kelli Rawls, practice manager of
Dickinson Animal Hospital & Pet Wellness Center.
Rawls was looking for charity the hospital could support, and
Penny's From Heaven seemed like a perfect fit.
"We just wanted to do something to get our name out in the community and at the same time give back to the community," Rawls said.
She discovered the Penny's From Heaven Foundation through its Web site.
"I loved the fact they use therapy dogs to help our American soldiers."
Rawls spoke with Swendson and was further impressed with the program. "It's very unique to find someone like her who does so much," Rawls said.
Now Dickinson Animal Hospital & Pet Wellness Center is preparing to host a one-mile fun run to support Penny's From Heaven Foundation.
"Paws for Penny" Fun Run will begin at 8 a.m. Saturday, Oct. 22, at First United Methodist Church, 200 FM 517 W. in Dickinson. The entry fee is $25 and one comfort item for a soldier or working dog. Registration and a list of comfort items can be found at the animal hospital, 1100 FM 517 Road W.
Participants in the fun run are invited to bring their pets, but all animals must be on a leash. Early registration continues through Oct. 11. After that, participants will not be guaranteed a t-shirt, but registration will remain available through the day of the run.
Nurse Sarah Purcell is among the pet hospital employees volunteering to organize the fun run. Helping out was an easy choice, she said.
'The first thing is what the organization is doing for the veterans' community," she said. "Plus, it promotes family time - doing something for a good cause and doing it together."
Swendson said she's excited about Dickinson Animal Hospital & Pet Wellness Center's efforts.
"I think it's fantastic," she said. "The support is tremendously appreciated."
Swendson founded Penny's From Heaven Foundation as a pet therapy organization. The foundation's namesake, a golden retriever named Penny, worked as a therapy dog for nearly a decade. Swendson and her team made visits throughout greater San Antonio, including stops at hospitals and therapy providers for veterans. Many of the warriors they wished they had a dog.
"It became clear the dogs were able to offer solace in a way that nothing else could," Swendson said.
For those who've been visibly wounded, have been burned or have lost ears, eyes or limbs, dogs are unfazed and unwavering in their loyalty. And for those suffering from PTSD, trained therapy dogs can be a lifeline, a source of comfort and a friend who can break suffering warriors out of their flashbacks.
Today, Penny's From Heaven continues to connect trained therapy dogs with those who can benefit from their gentle presence. And its team of PTSD support dogs provide support to returning soldiers affected by PTSD and traumatic brain injury. The dogs are selected and trained specifically for this work.
For more information, call 281-337-4535, or visit www.dickinsonanimalhospital.com .
Service Dogs and Therapy Dogs Blessed
at St. George Episcopal Church
"And I will make for them a covenant on that day
with the beasts of the field, the birds of the
heavens, and the creeping things of the ground. And
I will abolish the bow, the sword, and war from the
land, and I will make you lie down in safety."
-Hosea 2:18 (ESV)
Saturday, October 8, 2011 we had a special service to bless some dogs. In between snacks for humans and treats for dogs we said some prayers, read some scripture, sprinkled some water, and blessed each dog. Though we were the ones offering the blessing, I'm not so sure, but that we weren't the ones who were blessed. You see, sometimes God turns things around when we least expect it.
We had gathered for what looked like would be a typical St. Francis blessing of the animals, but these were not your everyday animals. The participants this morning were service and therapy dogs (and their trainers and owners) that have been trained by a local organization called "Penny's from Heaven."
These are dogs that have been trained to be living blessings. Some of them go out to nursing homes and hospitals where they minister to the sick, the hurting, and the lonely. Some of them go out to schools and listen to children read, giving their undivided attention. And some of them go to live with wounded veterans (inside and out) returning from war bringing unconditional love, peace, and protection. All of them are trained to meet the special needs of those they go out to visit.
And so we gathered and offered our prayers, and God poured out His blessing...in the laying on of hands and paws alike.
Susan Vipond (right), facility coordinator for Penny’s From Heaven Foundation in San Antonio, accepts approximately 20 donated Hero Hugs knitted throws from the Uvalde Knitters last Thursday afternoon at the Uvalde Adult Activity Center. Also included in the photo is Daisy Duke, a therapy dog for wounded soldiers. The throws will be donated to the Contingency Aeromedical Staging Facility at Wilford Hall Hospital, Lackland Air Force Base.
Service Dogs Help Warriors Coping With PTSD
San Antonio Express News article about warriors, service dogs, and the work that Penny's From Heaven Foundation and Train A Dog - Save A Warrior are doing.
Gunny and Jeramiah
COL DANNY MCKNIGHT, in charge of the Somalian mission which was the basis for the book and the movie, BLACKHAWK DOWN, visits with GUNNY and JEREMIAH, TADSAW's Tennessee Service Dog Team in Panama City Beach, FL at a gathering for wounded warriors. Gunny, it seems, will indeed make it to the steps of the White House. We have faith!
Bart Sherwood meets Best Selling Author Luis Carlos Montalvan
TADSAW Program Director, Bart Sherwood, meet NY Times Best Selling Author and wounded warrior, Luis Carlos Montalvan and his service dog, at a book signing in Houston for Montalvan's book, UNTIL TUESDAY!
National Assistance Dog Week - Video
In honor of National Assistance Dog Week, FOX 29 reached out to TADSAW for a beautiful success story. A wounded warrior with PTSD found his 'battle buddy' in a dog named Gunny! This segment will give you just a small idea of how valuable these TADSAW Service Dogs can be!
Meeting With H. Ross Perot
Mr. H. Ross Perot honored PFHF/TADSAW's Patsy Swendson and Bart Sherwood with a private tour of his offices outside of Dallas. They presented the TADSAW project to Mr. Perot for potential funding.
Dogs Chase Nightmares Of War Away
Jo Hanna Schaffer's dog is more than a best friend.
The 67-year-old veteran, a former Army medic, suffers from
post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and three years ago, she decided
to get a service dog, a Chihuahua named Cody. Cody barks if someone is
approaching from behind and cuddles with her when she is depressed.
"I never took a pill for PTSD that did as much for me as Cody has done," says the Billerica, Massachusetts, resident, who no longer takes medication for the disorder.
Schaffer is one of a growing number of veterans with PTSD who are turning to an alternative therapy: psychiatric service dogs.
Like guide dogs for the blind, psychiatric service dogs aid people with mental illnesses, from anxiety disorder to bipolar disorder to PTSD. The dogs are trained to know when their owners are depressed or having a panic attack, for example, and the animals might calm them down by curling up in their lap or giving a nudge.
Man's and Woman's Best Friend
Col. Kim Olson (Ret.) became involved with Grace After Fire, the goal of
the organization was to be a bridge between soldiers who served in the
military and their transition back into civilian life.
Sometimes that's easier said than done.
But one of the resources Olson has heard about is the Penny's From Heaven Foundation, which provides soldiers suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) with therapy dogs to help them cope.
Called TADSAW (Train A Dog, Save A Warrior), co-chair project director Patsy Swendson said the idea for using dogs for in-home therapy came after she received a phone call one morning.
"It was a particularly busy morning and all I heard was, 'I need help,'" Swendson said. "It was a soldier who was living in the woods in Pennsylvania in a cabin and was terrified to leave it because he had acute PTSD. He said the only thing that saves him, literally, is his little terrier dog Danny. He said he keeps him level.
[ Read the whole story ]
Pups Helps Soldiers Relieve Stress
on the lawn under a shady tree and getting attention and affection from
groups of Soldiers probably isn’t the kind of future Mocha saw for
herself a few years ago when she was sitting in a shelter, abandoned
after her breeding days were over.
Mocha is a pit bull and her veterinarians said from the looks of her that she had been bred repeatedly in her younger years. Due to the overwhelmingly negative perspective on the breed, Mocha might have not had a chance for a home and a family if it hadn’t been for Lydia Zaidman, who gave her a chance.
After bringing Mocha home and getting to know her, Zaidman knew the dog had a bright future as a therapy pet, but it would take some training. Today, Mocha visits schools, hospitals and other locations interested in pet therapy through the Divine Canine program, based in Austin, which emphasizes the natural healing power of dogs. “We want to support the community and be helpful to other human beings,” Zaidman said of her and Mocha’s mission.
How Dogs Help Veterans Cope
with PTSD -
Struggling with post-traumatic stress, veteran David Sharpe says he found a dog at a shelter that saved his life. Now, with a group called P2V, he pairs other vets with rescued pets.
Veterans are Healed Via Therapy Dogs
Man's best friend helps the
mind, body and spirit
Updated: Thursday, 11 Nov 2010, 11:13 PM CST
Published : Thursday, 11 Nov 2010, 6:12 PM CST
DRIPPING SPRINGS, Texas (KXAN) - Some come home from the war with a
wounded body. Others, a wounded mind, or wounded spirit. They are
healing now with the help of man's best friend.
The Penny's From Heaven Foundation provides special training for veterans dogs, with its " Train a Dog, Save a Warrior " program.
Sgt. A.J. Schill (Ret.) of Round Rock suffered spinal injuries in Iraq. Sgt. Andrew Pastusic of San Antonio suffered brain injuries there. Both men suffer from post-traumatic stress syndrome. Both own dogs trained by Patsy Swendson, founder of Penny's From Heaven.
Penny refers to Patsy's own beloved rehabilitation dog, a Golden Retriever.
"I went through a bad period. I needed to get out of the depression I was in so I would take Penny to visit patients and while I was with them, it helped heal me," she recalled.
Now Patsy is helping to heal sergeants Schill and Pastusic, among others.
Schill explained his PTSD symptoms.
"Staying at home and isolating myself, not only does it feed my depression, it doesn't help me," Schill said. "It's a Catch-22. if I stay in my house and isolate myself it gets worse and if I go outside, I risk panic attacks."
"When I got back things just weren't the same the way they were before I left," Pastusic said. "My relationship with the family, I did everything I could to distance myself, I didn't want them feeling the way I did."
"Train a Dog, Save a Warrior" teaches the animals to respond to the veterans, to provide love, support and security, and also to perform tasks tailored to that soldier's needs.
Schill talked about his German Shepherd, Kiowa.
"She provides me comfort. I want to have an excuse to get out and do something, be responsible for something," he said.
Pastusic's dog is a chocolate Labrador Retriever named Cocoa.
"In the four months I've been doing this I'm a completely changed man," Pastusic said. "I actually give a crap about life now, because I've got something that relies on me. Going through the training built confidence in me. I saw how she was performing so that steps up my game. She's my best friend, and my wife knows it, ha."
The families of the soldiers see a difference.
"I'm very hopeful," said Christa Schill, "because my husband is a wonderful person. He's been through a lot of emotions and things. I want my husband back."
The Penny's From Heaven Foundation is based in San Antonio, but services veterans across central Texas, such as at the Stay N Play Pet Ranch in Dripping Springs.
Patsy Swendson is in talks about financial help from Ross Perot and rocker Ted Nugent. Swendson believes she could take her program national and train dogs for 18,000 soldiers during the next two years.
"I can't say that what we do is going to cure them, I can say I have seen them endlessly improve dramatically," Swendson said. "In the rehab center I met a wounded warrior back from Iraq and that turned my life around. I found that my mission in life was to do this."