Controversial Army Policy Makes it Difficult for Soldiers to Get Service Dogs
by Rebecca Ruiz
MSNBC, June 4, 2012
One day this spring, Army Specialist David Bandrowsky, 27, played Russian roulette with his .38 revolver.
Bandrowsky planned to end his life, which had been at turns unbearable since he returned from a 16-month deployment in Iraq in 2008. He had been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder, a traumatic brain injury and depression as a result of his combat experience.
Right before he pulled the trigger, his service dog, Benny, jumped up and knocked the gun out of his hand.
“He saved my life,” Bandrowsky said.
Benny was not trained for that scenario, but the 18-month-old Shepherd-hound mix has been taught to, among other tasks, push Bandrowsky away from crowds, wake him if he removes a sleep apnea mask at night and nudge him into a petting session if he seems…
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A Beautiful Department of Veterans Affairs Mental Health Center, But is it Enough?
by Gary Peterson and Mark Emmons
Bay Area News Group, June 21, 2012
Chris Hurt walked the wide-open halls of the new Mental Health Center at the VA Palo Alto campus, admiring the airy feel of an 80-bed unit that features enclosed courtyards and even an area to play basketball.
The acute inpatient psychiatric facility, he said, is like “night and day” from the old, claustrophobic building next door where he recently spent two weeks.
“Every single person here goes through moments where they’re so miserable that they just want to get out,” said Hurt, 25, who served two tours in Iraq as an Army specialist. “I don’t think anybody wants to be here. But this is better because it’s more like a hospital and less like a psych ward.”
The 76,000-square-foot center, which will be unveiled…
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So, I’m sure you’ve noticed that I haven’t posted in a few weeks. There is a very good reason for that which was mentioned in previous posts. I just finished spending three weeks training with my new service dog, Chauncey. He is a pure breed Golden Retriever and he has already begun changing my life.
Before I left, I couldn’t even get through the grocery store without panicking and forget talking to someone, simply asking a sales associate a question had me stuttering and stammering until I was barely understandable. I can honestly report that I have not stuttered once since being partnered with Chauncey.
It truly is amazing how much your life can change in three short weeks. I can now face the world without fearing that I will melt into a puddle of sobbing nerves. I no longer fear taking my children out in public, going to the drug store, running errands, or simply existing outside of my house without my husband. I had never really considered myself a ‘dog person’, but Chauncey has changed that forever.
One event that happened while in Florida really sticks out as the moment I realized that Chauncey is truly mine. We had a visit from 15 wonderful women from the Daughters of the American Revolution. Chauncey was a complete ham with these women. He went from person to person trying to get them to pet him, play with him, rub his belly, etc. Every few minutes he would come over and lean against me for a moment before going back to being the center of attention. Todd, K9s Director of Operations, mentioned how different Chauncey is when he’s wearing his vest. Considering I had never seen that instant change due to the fact that we always rode in the van to get to a destination where he needed his vest, I decided to grab his vest for a demonstration. The instant I said “time to work” he was a completely different dog. Chauncey sat stoically and regally at my side. I was the sole focus of his attention as he simply leaned gently against my legs to let me know I was safe. After a few moments I took his vest off and he immediately returned to being a complete ham!
Since returning home, we have been on several outings. The chaos of learning a new home with so many children, a dog and cat is immediately erased as soon as I put his vest on. Chauncey is in his zone and everything is right in his world. He is going to be a completely spoiled member of the family and my best friend. I’ve been giving him a break from training (beyond the basics) so he can get used to being here and know this is his home. Unfortunately, when his vest is off, he is already trying to test boundaries; however, as soon as I say “time to work” the testing ends and he is focused on me.
In the coming days, I hope to write about my experiences at K9s, the wonderful people I met, and the things I learned…both about Chauncey as well as myself. I’d like to be able to give those who are waiting for their school dates a glimpse of what to expect, though I know nothing I could write would begin to touch on the individual growth that each warrior will experience through this process.
I would like to take a moment to thank everyone at K9s for Warriors as well as Veterans Airlift Command. Without either of these great organizations, I would not be where I am today…firmly on the road to recovery!
What a week – check out my post on my personal blog!
Just going to post real quick and say Melissa is doing awesome out in Florida, she had a terrible day today but its to be expected, everything is brand new, new location, new people, new pup. Everything. And those of us with PTSD don’t usually do to well with a bunch of change. But as she and I as well as every one knows, when its all said and done she is going to come out on top rocking and rolling. I am completely jealous of her 😉 but in a good way. I am very thankful she has finally gotten to that point where she begin to get on with her life and i know Chauncey is going to be one bad*** dog for her.
On the other hand if you have followed any of my nonsense going on i have probably been on one of the worst paths i have been on in awhile. I won’t go into to much detail. just check out the my blog later on if ya want.
At least M is on point to succeed right now and thats awesome! Don’t worry i will try and get as much rambling nonsense up while your gone so you can’t yell at me. Keep up the awesome work with Chauncey and know it will continue to get so much better everyday!
(Stupid factoid for my post…Kris Kross, Jump is playing on my iPhone. Yup it is.)
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) Bill of Rights
by: Todd Burgess (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Adapted from The Grieving Person’s Bill of Rights
by: Dr. Alan Wolfelt
You have the right to experience PTSD. Everybody has experienced different trauma and your PTSD reflects this. You have nothing to be ashamed or embarrassed about. Do not allow anybody to tell you what you should and should not feel because of your experiences.
You have the right to talk about PTSD. Talking about PTSD will help you heal. Seek out others who will allow you talk as much as you want without judgment.
You have the right to experience a range of emotions. Sadness, anxiety, anger, guilt and happiness are some of the emotions you will experience. Never allow anyone to tell you what you are feeling is wrong.
You have the right to be tolerant of your physical and emotional limits. Your ever changing moods and emotions will leave you tired. Respect your body and mind and what they tell you. Get lots of rest and do not forget to eat. Do not allow others to push you into things you are not ready to do physically.
You have the right to experience panic attacks. PTSD can overwhelm you without warning and this is a natural part of PTSD. Respect your panic attacks and get to a safe spot and call a friend if you need help to calm down. Avoid doing anything drastic to try deal with your panic attack.
You have the right to experience PTSD as a journey. All journeys will include wrong turns and steep hills but with patience you can arrive at your destination. PTSD too is a long journey that with patience you can overcome. Mistakes in this journey are yours to make and are a part of the journey.
You have the right to search for meaning in your PTSD. Some questions will have answers and some will not. Accept that some questions will never have answers. Avoid cliche answers such as “It’s God’s will.” or “It could always be worse.”
You have the right to make use of therapy. Seek out a therapy and a therapist you are comfortable with. Do not allow anybody to question your therapy or therapist. Not all therapists are right for you so accept that finding a therapy and a therapist will involve some trial and error. Find a therapist you can believe in even when you can not believe in yourself.
You have the right to flashback and experience distressing images of traumatic events. You will feel fear, helpless, horror and even anger at having these memories. Accept they are a normal part of PTSD and with therapy and time they will become more manageable.
You have the right to fight the good fight. No apologies or explanations are ever needed. Be prepared for the unexpected and always have a plan in place in case things go wrong. Battles will be won and lost but the war is yours to win. There is no shame in asking for help and admitting defeat. Self-harm or suicide is never an option and never be ashamed to ask for help if you reach this point.
As I discussed earlier, I am at a sort of cross road in my life. I know the path before me and I can clearly identify the forks in the road. One path leads down the path I’ve been traveling all these years. The path of denial, depression, and isolation associated with my PTSD. Then, there is a second path. A path unknown to me. A path that, from all reports, leads toward recovery. Its not a path to a cure, I have long ago conceded that there is not cure for PTSD; I have suffered too many traumas for there to be a cure. But…and there is always a but… this path will lead toward a better future.
I have always been terrible with change. I’m not talking about change as in rearranging the living room. I’m talking about bigger changes. Adding a member to your family, moving to a new base, my husband deploying as well as when he returns. Those major life changes that require you to rethink your entire daily routines. I know the path I am choosing to take won’t be all rainbows and lollipops. I know it will require hard work and determination. It will require me to come outside of myself to care for this dog. It will require me to get out of this house and actually get some fresh air and potentially some exercise. It will cause me to interact more with my children as they get to know Chaunsey. It will change virtually everything about my daily life. That alone terrifies me. My stomach is in knots, my nerves are frazzled and my head is swimming. Just the thought of leaving my family for three weeks is enough to send me into a panic attack, even though when I’m here at home, I tend to isolate myself away from everyone.
I know I am not alone in these feelings. I have already talked with one of my classmates and she has described feeling very much the same way. I’m sure all of the graduates of K9s have also felt some level of what I am feeling. They are the ones who have kept me moving forward to the place I am now.
I am looking at these two paths. One is familiar and comfortable to me, even though my PTSD is anything but controlled. The other, the path that I am actively choosing to follow is the new one. I am choosing to step outside my comfort zone with the hope and determination to fight back against my PTSD. After all THIS is what this blog is supposed to be all about…fighting back. Realizing we are not alone and that there is always hope. Learning that there are ways to find some level of peace with our inner demons, deciding that we are no longer going to be the victims of our trauma’s but survivors.
We can fight PTSD. I choose to do so. You can also choose to fight, or you can choose to take the familiar path. Ultimately, its entirely up to you. Which path will you take?