MaryAnn H.A. Dyer & Wookiee

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My name is MaryAnn H.A. Dyer, I am a Retired, 100% Disabled, female Army Veteran, with a Military Occupational Skill (MOS) in Intelligence (TSBICI). I have Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) with Night Terrors, Military Sexual Trauma (MST), Panic Attacks, Fibromyalgia, Degenerative Spine and Severe Migraines.

I love the Army and I love my Country; We take care of each other. The thought that I would need the help of a Service Dog to release anger that I’ve held deeply inside my soul for decades flabbergasted me. I was grossly mistaken. My therapist suggested a Pets-For-Veterans dog to me and I envisioned thoughts of a HUGE rabid beast to protect me…I got a 12 pound Shih Tzu mutt with an underbite and hair accessory!

Her name was Cookie. Seriously, that’s a nickname for someone with “Mother” tattoos working KP (kitchen duty) in the Army, peeling potatoes while smoking cigarettes. Our personalities clashed until I promoted her to my rival – Navy, she became Wookiee, a fighter pilot on the Millennium Falcon!

Wookiee not only rides with me in the HandyVan to VA appointments, she travels with me on airplanes to seminars. Wookiee controls not only my mood, but that of the crowd around us, which comes in handy should I have a panic attack and need her to perform conflict resolution and crowd control maneuvers. Wookiee is excellent at pain management and meditation techniques. She helps me move energy throughout my body, releasing it from pain for the duration of meditation. Truly a miracle I’d never experienced before.

In meditation, I drew parallels between Wookiee’s and my life while she was with Pets-For-Vets and I was in the military. She was badly matted and in need of a shave. I called that basic training where PVT Wookiee got a “high n’ tight” and learned her obedience commands. I was a Bulldog at Mad-Dog-Alpha-8-2; We both wore dog tags. I shared an open bay with sixty women and Wookiee shared an open kennel. I’ve been locked in War Rooms and Wookiee has been locked in cages. Wookiee and I guard each other’s back and are both loud in sounding off! We were destined to join forces together.

Upon awakening, I look into her “owl” eyes of wisdom and play with her gently on my bed. She gives me great delight and engages my maternal instincts. Taking Wookiee for walks, feeding and brushing her gives me reason to function regardless of emotion, pain or desire. She is an extension of myself, only better.
Wookiee sleeps with her head at my heart and wakes me before the night terrors can grip my mind, body and soul. She helps me re-write my life in a healthy, productive, humorous way. This Service Dog breathes life into my lungs; I am blessed to call her friend.

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Carolyn May and Wiggles

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PTSD is an ugly, devitalizing, and enervating disorder. Sometimes you just want to hide and avoid people completely. It is difficult to do the things you once loved and PTSD symptoms have adverse and detrimental effects on relationships. When one considers what it means to be well, what it means to be mentally healthy, it is essential that we interact with others have compassion not only for other people, but for ourselves.

Compassion, companionship…. That’s what a service dog provides for their battle buddy. In 2018, I was blessed with the opportunity to receive a service dog from a non-profit organization Healing4Heroes. The process started with choosing a dog. I think Wiggles actually chose me. She is super loving and energetic. I thought to myself “This dog will force me to get out of bed,” even on days when I’m severely depressed and have zero motivation.

Wiggles presence has changed my life for the better. I have a reason to get out of bed, even on the days where the depression is consuming, and I don’t want to do anything. Even if the only thing she does is lay by me on those days where I don’t want to get up, her unconditional love is unfailing. In a world where it is hard to find compassion and unconditional love, my service dog is an exact reflection of those human needs.

I can walk into Walmart with her by my side without feeling panicked or overwhelmed by the excessive amounts of people. PTSD symptoms have caused me to be excessively situationally aware, to the point where I create danger in my mind that is not physically present. My service dog can post and make me aware of when someone is coming up behind me. She can put space between myself and another person so that I can maintain my personal boundary bubble. When I have mobility issues, wiggles gives me a brace to get back up on.

Wiggles senses my anxiety and puts her paw on me to put me in check and make me aware of my mood. She just looks at me and with her big brown eyes, tells me that I’m ok and I need to take a break. When I experience seizures from conversion disorder, she will place pressure on me and relieve some of the thrashing from the muscle spasms. I have an extreme aversion to touch, but that has not stopped Wiggles from giving me a hug every time I walk through the door (hug is actually now a command). In being affectionate with my service dog, I have slowly become more comfortable with human touch.

Having a service dog has made me a better person. I’ve gotten pieces of myself back that PTSD, depression, and anxiety stole from me. I am less withdrawn. I am more confident. I feel like me again.

Getting a rescue dog for a service dog actually rescued me.

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Mike Arena & Orion

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Orion (my service dog) over the years has drastically reduced my symptoms of PTSD.

Since Orion…

I can have a connection with my family; reintegrating with the lives of my 4 children and soon to be 3 grandchildren from a previous life and now a long-term relationship with my girlfriend and her daughter.

I can go back to work; regaining a since of belonging to society and communicate with others.

I can go to the to the grocery story in the middle of back-to-school-shopping crowds versus waiting to 0200 on a Thursday with no people in the store.

I can go into large crowds attending a volley ball game or just having a nice dinner out without having to look for the exits.

I can “pay it forward” as Orion, my service dog, has given me confidence in allowing me to start a service dog non-profit in helping other veterans realize how a service dog can be used as a tool for the internal wounds, just like a prosthetic leg might be a for a visible wound.  We can speak at public forums for community outreach– raising awareness to veteran suicide; reducing the numbers one service dog at time.

Mike Arena

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Russ Albrycht and Tink

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I enlisted in the U.S. Army Reserves in 1998 and have deployed twice as a Combat Medic to Iraq.  For my first deployment, I worked in the EMT (Emergency Room) of a Combat Support Hospital during the busiest phase of the Iraq War and regularly received mortar fire during my second.  As one can imagine, I saw and experienced many things that no one should ever have to.  All of this led to pronounced anxiety and PTSD that has affected me in many different ways.

A few years after my second deployment, I heard about Pets for Vets and contacted them about a companion animal.  Shortly after, I was matched with an amazing dog, Tinkerbell.  She is named after Tinkerbell from Peter Pan who is known for always fixing things which is how she got her name.  She has done an amazing job at “fixing” so many different aspects of my life.

There have been many days where she put a smile on my face just from how excited she was to see me at the end of a long work day.  I have always been a person that needs to be constantly busy and there have many times where she has looked so cute watching me that I had to stop what I was doing to spend time with her or where I said “I should sit with her on the couch and eat dinner instead of at my computer”.  She also helps to show me the importance of stopping to smell the roses because during her beloved walks, she frequently stops to smell something.  This helps me to relax and enjoy life instead of feeling the need to constantly be busy.

I have spent a lot of time cuddling with her during and after having an intense emotional event.  This brings me a lot of peace and a strong sense of companionship because she is there to comfort me without my needing to explain what happened.  She is just happy to be with her Daddy.

She has also done an incredible job of bringing me closer to other people in my life since I can’t always be the one to watch her.  I communicate more frequently with my family now which started because I was checking in on her.  I also visit my second family on a weekly basis for dinner now since they watch her once a week and I cook dinner for them since they watched her all day.

I would definitely say that contacting Pets for Vets and taking Tink into my life has been one of the best decisions that I’ve ever made.  I will be forever grateful to Pets for Vets and Tink for making such a difference in my life.

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Sheldon Ewers, U.S. Navy Veteran and his Amazing Service Dog Roy

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I can say I am alive today because of my Service Dog Roy!

In May of 2017 I received a significant mental blow.  On that day while home by myself, I received a letter in the mail explaining to me from an employer, I was broken, I was terminated, they had no position for me.

Fired, rejected, useless, failure as a husband and father.   After reading the letter, I walked to my room, opened the drawer and pulled out a 40 caliber Sig Sauer pistol.  While crying uncontrollably, I sat on the floor by myself and pushed that pistol as far back in my throat as I could.  With every fiber of my being I had every intention of pulling the trigger. Across the house in my living room was my service dog Roy.  How he knew I will never know!  One minute I was alone, the next minute he was licking me and pressing his body to mine.  Roy’s paws on my arms and licking me at the same time.  The combination of my despair and love of my service dog and his persistence to make me hold on to him saved my life literally.  I have the (above) photo of that moment only because a friend insisted I send her one to know I was ok.

Since that day, I have completed my Bachelor of Arts degree with the intent of attending Michigan State University in August of 2019 for a Masters in Vocational Rehabilitation.

Without the love and support of Guardian Angels and the devotion of my Service Dog Roy I would not be alive.  I have attached two photos:  The first depicts the despair of that fateful day, the second is my life reborn with Roy by my side.

Sincerely,

Sheldon Ewers

U.S. Navy Veteran and former Lieutenant Michigan Department of Corrections

 

 

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SFTT Salutes: Lance Corporal Charlton E. Johnson USMC, and his Canine Companion Aliana (Ali)

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STAND FOR THE TROOPS (SFTT) is honoring service dogs with our Service Dog Salute Photo Campaign that celebrates the unique relationship between Veterans and their canine companions. SFTT recognizes the significant role these support animals play and wants to show-and-tell this fact to the world.

Lance Corporal Charlton E Johnson Weapons Expert USMC, and his Canine Companion Aliana (Ali)

I am Lance Corporal Charlton E Johnson Weapons Expert USMC, Attached to a Weapons Plt in Golf Co 2nd Bn 5th Mar 1st Marine Div also; Spec 4, Weapons Specialist attached to the Scout Plt in Combat Support Company Naugatck CT.

I first met Didi Tolloch the Pets for Vets (PFV) Manager some 4 years ago and after our first interview became the 1st Veteran to adopt a dog through them in the state of Ct. I want you to know right now that Aliana Saved Me and it was not the other way around! She has become my reason for waking up every day, my reason for Living! I suffer from severe PTSD, Depression and other mental issues from my time in the Military.

 At mine and Aliana first meeting we Both Knew that we needed each other it was and still is A Perfect Match made from the Heavens! Didi and PFV have been there every step to make sure we were both taken care of, Didi is the reason why I can keep and maintain the expense of having Aliana!! Mary Jo Duffy (the trainer) should also be mentioned because she has helped with training and helping both of adjust to our new situation!

I would like everyone to know how grateful I am to these two ladies!! If I would win this, it would mean the world to Aliana and I as I am on Disability at the present time. So, thank you for taking your time to read this letter, as you can see I’m not too good with words and it’s not easy to express myself in the right light!! I’m attaching a picture of Aliana and I at ROAR’s 1st Furry Scurry Event in 2016.

“Semper Fi”

Charlton & Aliana Jane

You, too, can share your unique story and photo of you and your service dog, along with a short description (500 words or less) about WHY this canine relationship has made a difference in your life. We’ll post it right here in our Service Dog Gallery. Submissions will be eligible for a SFTT Lucky Dog Award where two teams will receive a year supply of dog food.

 

TO SUBMIT YOUR STORY

  • Submit your story (no more than 500 words, please) and high-resolution digital photo to info@SFTT.org.
  • Include name, address, email and phone number with your submission.
  • For additional info, please contact Maura Kallaway 203-629-0288.
  • The first of the two awards will be announced 9/6 and 9/30, respectively.

 

By submitting your story (500 words or less) and a photo of your battle buddy, you agree that both items can be posted in their entirety along with any images on SFTT social media streams and www.SFTT.org.

 

 

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PTSD and Fireworks

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Written by: Rebecca McCoy

Rebecca McCoy lives in Florida with her husband who has military related PTSD, two children, and extended family. She writes about her experiences as a supportive spouse and shares her unique perspective and wants to help others who are living with PTSD. She shares her story at www.aspousesstoryptsd.com. and on her Facebook page: A Spouses Story PTSD.

Has anyone noticed that many with #PTSD are having additional symptoms or increased symptoms right now? Now, do you know why?

For those of you in the United States… What’s coming? Ah… the 4th of July! (There are certain anniversaries or such going on in other countries as well) Which means…

Fireworks…Crowds…Celebrations…Expectations! Oh fireworks!

Fireworks.

Many ask, “Why fireworks?”. Because they might resemble what someone, especially military/war related OR a natural disaster, went through, their trauma, which lead to PTSD.

Many that do understand believe it’s because of the sound they produce, which is very true however not the full truth to them. What about the vibration they give off, vibrations from fireworks can also effect one. Then you have the light produced from them, it can be another PTSD trigger as well.

So what if the one with PTSD might be able to manage through the lights, vibrations, sound but you can’t figure out why fireworks are still a trigger to their PTSD. But are you still missing something? What about the smell? Ah… you may not have thought about that one, the smell. Many that have experienced military trauma relate the smell of fireworks to combat.

In a situation where natural disaster was at hand, it may be more of the sound, lights, and vibration over the smell sense that trigger a person.

You have to keep in mind ALL of the body’s senses when it comes to PTSD. PTSD can react to or be triggered by anything that can be sensed that reminds them of what happened to them and was going on around them at the time of their trauma.

At times, those that are triggered by fireworks can find ways to cope through them, others may have a more difficult time doing so. It all depends on the person, their level of coping at that time, as well as if there is time to prepare for a possible trigger.

So what can you do?

* Some will face what is going on. Actually sit, watch, and focus on fireworks to try to help keep themselves grounded to present time and place.

* Some will stay inside to avoid the smells fireworks produce. Or to avoid the light they produce, also by keeping the curtains shut to block the light.

* The vibrations are a slight bit more tricky. There’s no avoiding those. If vibrations are a trigger you have to focus to keep yourself grounded. Prepare yourself to what you know is actually taking place or going to take place. Helicopters are another thing that is a huge trigger to many due to vibrations, which seem to fly more during the holiday weekend.

* If the sound is a trigger, sometimes playing music or something you like such as watching a movie can help drown them out. Ear buds or headphones/headsets are wonderful in these cases.

* Using coping techniques/skills can help. To name a few common ones… Breathing exercises, meditation (which there are many different types of meditation, mindfulness is one we use), grounding techniques including focusing on someone or something.

* Talk to someone through these times. Having someone to talk to and focus on can help, as well as help keep you grounded.

Whatever works for you or try different things until you find what’s best for you in each situation, just make sure you do something. Flashbacks and triggers are no joke and sure not a fun experience so do or try things that can help get you through these times.

PTSD does start showing more symptoms when one is getting closer to days like the 4th of July. Recognize that there is a cause for additional symptoms and they are not something that are just coming out of the blue. With PTSD, there is always a “something” to cause the flashbacks or triggers. When you learn to recognize the causes or reasons, it makes it a little easier to handle and learn to cope best as possible when those things come.

To those without PTSD…

Please take into consideration and understand that if one with PTSD cannot manage to join in holiday activities, it’s not that they don’t want to, it’s due to what is going on now that may be triggering their symptoms. They may be overwhelmed, feel pressured, experiencing higher anxiety and stress levels, and a good chance due to the fear of the unknown which is very common with PTSD. It will all depend on a person’s coping level/ability to what they can manage and what they cannot at this point, as well as any triggers which may occur.

So let those with PTSD set their own pace and be the one to push themselves if they are in a position they feel they can. It is perfectly okay to invite them and include them in holiday activities, it actually will make them feel good, but at the same time do not pressure them to do so.

Many may retreat away from others during this time, please understand that this should not be taken personally, when this happens normally it’s due to them needing space to cope and manage their symptoms, as well as not wanting others to see what they go through.

I hope everyone has a peaceful and relaxing holiday, please stay safe out there!

~Bec

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SFTT Service Dog Salute Photo Campaign

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‘Some dogs help people see, while others
help them forget what they’ve seen!’

Stand for the Troops (SFTT), the David Hackworth legacy foundation, is Saluting Service Dogs with a photo campaign launching on PTSD Awareness Day, June 27th, 2018. Veterans and their families are encouraged to submit candid or portrait photographs of themselves and their service dog companion along with a short narrative about WHY this canine relationship has reduced the symptoms of post-traumatic stress (PTSD). The campaign will conclude on September 6th, 2018 when one Veteran will be selected to receive a year’s supply of Dog food. The announcement will be made at the Frank J. Robotti Golf Classic luncheon and recipient does not need to be present.

While the US Department of Veteran Affairs (VA) acknowledges that owning a dog can “lift your mood” and that “All dog owners, including those who have post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) can experience these benefits,” the VA still doesn’t acknowledge the value, both psychological and monetary, of canine companionship to Veterans.

The good news? The Contemporary Clinical Trials has designed the first-ever study to quantify the palliative effects of service dogs for Veterans who suffer from PTSD.

But the SFTT Medical Task Force doesn’t need a trial to know how restorative the relationship between a transitioning serviceman or woman and his/her service dog can be. Whether you’re recently separated from active duty or you’ve been a civilian for many years, we recognize the impact these animals have had on your lives, which is why we fund service dog programs throughout the US.

SFTT’s Service Dog Salute Photo Campaign is about you and your service dog. We know that so many Veterans have experienced the therapeutic benefits of having a PTSD service dog and we want to hear about — and see — your unique relationship with your canine.

Submit your Story and High Resolution Digital Photo to info@SFTT.org and we’ll post both your story and photo.  Dog Food recipient will be notified by phone so be sure to include name, address, email and phone number with your submission.

By submitting your story (500 words or less) and a photo of your battle buddy, you agree that it can be posted in its entirety along with any images on SFTT social media streams and SFTT.org.

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The Endocannabinoid System & PTSD:  Could Hemp Oil Be The Missing Link?

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Written by Fatima Cook and Gregg Cook

Let us begin with the basics.

What Is The Endocannabinoid System?

First documented in the 1990s, this system is a relatively new discovery and is an internal (endo-) receptor for cannabidiol, serving as a modulator and communicator between all the other systems in the body.  These receptors are found in the brain and gut as well as the immune, cardiovascular, nervous and endocrine systems, and even in the nuclear membrane of cells. When this enormously important endocannabinoid system is properly primed with sufficient cannabinoids – which in optimal health, the body is able to self-produce – the body maintains homeostasis, or balance, and functions the way it is naturally designed to do. In this way, the body can heal itself. We now know that, aside from the endogenous cannabinoids the body produces, they can also be found in small concentrations in such foods as cacao, echinacea, and fish oil, and is even present in mother’s breast milk.  In its most concentrated form, cannabinoids are found in cannabidiol, or hemp oil, also commonly referred to as CBD.

Hemp oil is extracted from the cannabis sativa plant (or the marijuana plant) and is one of the plant’s two main active compounds – the other being delta-9-terahydrocannabinol, or THC, the one producing psychoactive effects – the well-known “high.”  It has shown powerful results as a treatment for a variety of formerly untreatable conditions, ranging from auto-immune and neuro-degenerative diseases, epileptic seizures, chronic pain, anxiety, insomnia and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), often experienced by Veterans.

How Can Hemp Oil Treat PTSD?       

Hemp oil mitigates two defining characteristics of PTSD: the terror PTSD sufferers experience reliving past trauma and the anxiety that this terror can cause. The immense, unrelenting stress and fear which lead to the disorder cause significant dampening of the endocannabinoid system and the brain’s ability to regulate memories.  Hemp oil fills the gaps, priming the system to self-regulate and expedite the elimination of a conditioned fear. Hemp oil or CBD works synergistically with the body to quell anxiety, therefore allowing for a more restful night’s sleep without the disruption of flashback memories. The added benefit of hemp oil is that it works its magic without the psychoactive component of the hemp plant.

Not All Hemp Oils Are Created Equal

While there are many hemp products in the marketplace today, it is important to know which ones will provide relief and not empty the bank account. The first thing to know is that some CBD products are plant-based while others are lab-created.  Look for plant-based — nature usually does things better than chemicals. Specifically, search for a hemp oil that is derived from the whole plant, including stalks and stems, and pristinely grown without the use of pesticides.

Second, make sure the hemp oil is meticulously extracted so that the amount of remaining THC is undetectable.

Last, but of equal importance, is the bio-availability of the oil.  What we mean by this, is that most dietary supplements need to travel through the digestive tract in order to be processed and for its positive effects to take hold.  In the case of hemp oil, most of the beneficial compounds (upwards of 90%) are destroyed through the digestive process, turning it into a relatively useless, very expensive supplement.  An efficient and bioavailable hemp oil should have two distinct features:

  1. It should be delivered to the body through high-grade liposomes.  A liposome is a microscopic sphere made of phospholipids, the basic building blocks of cell membranes.
  2. Its particle size should be miniscule, ideally, nano-sized (1/100th the width of a single human hair).

When these two features are combined, the absorption of the oil into the body rapidly begins in the mouth.  Consumed regularly, a state of calm focus and restorative well-being can be easily attained.

Looking for more research?  There are thousands upon thousands of studies out there.  Have a look at pubmed.gov and projectcbd.org.

Please contact us at Deep Health Evolution with any questions or concerns about how hemp oil might help reduce the debilitating effects the “invisible wounds” of PTSD and traumatic brain injury (TBI) have on Veterans.

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Farming As A Non-Pharma Rx For Veterans With PTSD

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While many Combat Veterans who suffer from Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) and/or Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) follow conventional medical protocols involving high dosages of anti-depressants, others have discovered a more “natural” way to heal from invisible war wounds.

Through farming.

“It’s as natural as it gets,” says MAJ Ben Richards, SFTT Director of Veteran Affairs. “Working outside with your hands in the earth to help plants grow and feed people?  It doesn’t get much more rewarding than that for many survivors of wartime trauma.”

Just as farming is palliative for Combat Veterans, these civilian soldiers may be the cure for the farming industry.  While the suicide rates of American Veterans and American Farmers are both rising at unprecedented speed, the key to halting this acceleration may ironically lie within the symbiotic relationship between the two occupations.  Research shows that Veterans with PTSD feel a greater sense of purpose and community when working as farmers.

One of our partners, Archi’s Institute for Sustainable Agriculture (AiSA) offers courses in sustainable agriculture for Veterans and military service members that have not only afforded these men and women jobs, but have also ameliorated their PTSD symptoms.

“Our goal at Archi’s Institute is to provide Veterans who suffer from TBI and/or PTSD with the tools and knowledge they need to either start their own small hydroponic farms or to work for other farmers,” says Karen Archipley, Co-Founder and Marketing Manager (AiSA).  “We’ve seen Veterans who are struggling to function in their daily lives come to our Institute and not only learn skills that help them forge a new career path, but they also make friends and emotional connections, giving their lives renewed meaning.”

This new breed a warrior-farmer may be just what the “dying breed” of hands-on agriculture needs.

As we approach Memorial Day, please consider giving to Treatment of Ten, our fundraising initiative to send 10 Broncos for our integrative TBI/PTSD rehabilitative program, consisting of a non-prescription drug protocol, including organic farming among other therapies.

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