by Janet J. Seahorn, Ph.D
So you think you want to bring home a new puppy. You know, one of those wiggly, darling, sweet looking bundles of joy. They appear amazing innocent in the entire plethora of internet pictures, advertisements, and billboards. Yep, you definitely believe one of these adorable, four-legged, loveable, furry cherubs known as “man’s best friend” will enhance your life and look great on your next Christmas card. And, you aren’t totally oblivious of what it might take to raise one of these creatures. You’ve had puppies before, of course. You may have been much younger and more patient at the time.
You understand that this energetic whippersnapper will take a pretty good amount of time to potty train, learn new commands, and not bolt at the first slight opening of every door in your home. Hiding any and every item that might go into the puppy’s mouth including expensive eye glasses could end in an inflated doggy hospital visit – sure to cost you an arm and a leg. This will be essential to your pocket book and your endearing, four-legged child’s health. Oh, and did I mention how much puppies love the leather seats of your new truck’s interior.
If your adorable, small creature is going to grow into a huge, muscle bound tank, like my brother’s black lab, Mato, life becomes even more fun to control. Things like not allowing this boiler of energy to greet others, especially children and the elderly, by approaching them like a freight train and jumping full force onto their chests. This will be crucial to avoid unpleasant verbal encounters or even law suits. Of course that once tiny bundle of fur has no clue that he has grown into a ninety pound bruiser of a beast.
Oh, and don’t forget that if you have other household pets, bringing a new four-legged nipper into the pack will require an immense amount of patience, both for you and your other domestic companion. My brother, John, wanted to have another pal for his aging lab, Wyatt. We did something similar with our beloved older lab, Chase, when we brought Hunter Bailey into our abode, and told John, how Bailey helped bring new life back to Chase’s daily routines. It actually, we believed, gave Chase a new lease on life and kept him agile and healthy for several more years. To be honest, Chase did not fully support this perspective. Bailey, however, kept Chase’s competitive spirit active. Chase would not allow his new “buddy” to ever get an edge on any ball, bird, or swimming event.
However, in our limited experience we forgot one significant point. Just like kids, all dogs are not alike, and Mato (Lakota for Bear) was absolutely not like Bailey. Bailey, as the younger dog, was quiet, subservient, and a fairly mild lab compared to when we raised Chase. Chase was more like Mato, impulsive exhaustingly active, and stubborn as hell. My brother’s older dog, Wyatt, has always been a gentle people pleaser, more like Bailey. Poor, innocent Wyatt had no clue what a new puppy would bring to his world.
Today, Wyatt has extreme doggie PTSD from his adopted brother, Mato. Having a huge puppy leaping on him throughout the day, pulling on his ears and legs to induce play, or taking more than one dog’s share of food would be traumatic for any aging canine.
So, what does this story have to do with Post Traumatic Stress of an aging military veteran, one might ask? Bringing a new puppy into your quiet, tranquil home may generate more stress and anxiety than you ever imagined. Just ask my brother, John. He now refers to his beloved puppy, Mato, as a Weapon of Mass Destruction. Need I say more…
Filed Under Aging, Dogs, Family, Fishing Therapy, Healing Waters, Journey, Life, Love, Peace, Pets, PTSD, Renewal, Service Dogs, Tears of a Warrior, Tears of Joy, Veterans | Comments Off on CHASE’S MEADOW
by Tony & Janet Seahorn
The human heart and mind are amazing in their capacity to experience intense sadness and abundant gratitude at the same time. That lump in the throat is still there as are the tears that cloud my eyes. Yet, the weight of the death of our wonderful Chase seems to be a bit lighter.
Earlier this week, we visited Chase’s most beloved mountain meadow, high on the Snowy Range in southern Wyoming. It is a beautiful, alpine meadow filled with wild flowers and a running brook. This is the place we chose to spread his ashes and place a stone memorial on a wooded ridge overlooking the peaceful valley below.
We promised to make this journey after the early summer snow melt and before the wildflowers were in full bloom.
His very essence now glides in the winds and rolls gently with the flowing water. White and yellow flowers line his final path. He is at peace, as are we. And younger brother Bailey still romps through the brightly colored grasses chasing after his cherished tennis ball – a reminder that joy is always present around and within our souls.
As we paid our final respects it seemed as if Chase was giving us his final message:
I am now in my meadow; my ashes white as angels’ wings float with the Wind and flow through the mountain streams to places I never ran in life.
Peace and beauty will always surround me with a green and white and purple blanket of sweet columbines.
This is where I was finally meant to be.
Therefore, honor me not with tears of sadness, but with hearts of joyfulness.
Remember me with stories and laughter.
And most of all know that as much as you loved me I loved you even more.
Black Forest Chase
April 23, 1999 – January 4, 2013
by Janet J. Seahorn, Ph.D
We have written several blogs on the significance of animals in bettering our lives and making our days easier to move through. But what happens when the guardian of our days is left behind? What happens when their beloved human is no longer around to protect, love, and be loved?
When Dog’s can’t “pluck tears” how do they grieve? How do they get over the loss of their best friend? Few of us consider how to support a trusted four-legged companion through the grieving process. Treats won’t take away the ache in the stomach. A walk may be distracting for a time, but it will never be the same without their best friend along. An animal, much like many of us humans, cannot understand or accept the finality of never being with, seeing, or being hugged and stroked by the one person who has been their mainstay for their years on earth. All our four-legged sentinels knows for sure is that special person is not around.
So they wait, and remain hopeful that someday that beloved master will once again appear. Such heartbreak can not be explained to those who are not animal lovers. Only a person who has been blessed to have shared time with a loyal companion will be able to comprehend the massiveness of the loss, the intensity of the sorrow, and the endlessness of the Hope that one day they will meet again to be together.
Today, I ask that you say a prayer of remembrance and peace for all of our animal family that have suffered such a profound loss. I believe somewhere beyond our sight and understanding we are all surrounded by angels of different breeds and types. They hear us, feel our sadness, and enfold us in wings of comfort.
Since we can’t “Pluck their Tears” perhaps we can at least offer a bit of comfort and extra love.
NOTE: Picture is of Jon Tumilson Navy Seal… Died August 6, 2011 and his dog… Labrador retriever “Hawkeye”
by Janet J. Seahorn
A few weeks ago we had the rare opportunity for my family to get together and spend some quality time floating, fishing, and just chilling out in Wyoming.
During one of our chats, my brother, a Vietnam Navy vet, started talking about how hard it is to stay out of the “Sad Sack”, especially when his PTSD starts rearing it’s nasty head.
Although it is not realistic to expect that any of us can totally avoid jumping into this particular “sack”, it is wise to try and do something more inspiring than hanging out in the land of gloom.
Go for a walk, listen to music, write, or take up pottery or painting… or fishing. Anything that can help take your mind off of the misery.
One Vietnam vet I recently heard from talked about some of the projects he has done and continues to do for the children in Vietnam.
So far he has built one kindergarden in honor of his best friend who was killed in combat forty years ago. He has another one in process, and has helped do the fund raising and building of a library to honor another high school classmate killed during the same conflict. By giving something positive back to the world, he declares, allows him to keep his ghosts in line. Gosh, organizing, fund raising, and constructing these amazing projects is a pretty impressive way to stay out of the Sad Sack.
I must admit that some of our sibling conversations made me go into the “Jovial, Laughing Sack” which seemed to annoy the others in the car just a much as if I were in the Sad Sack.
Seems like when only one person in the group finds a subject humorous, others give you that disgusting look that says “stuff” the mirth. Dang, now I couldn’t open my Sad Sack and couldn’t stay in my Laughing Sack, which, by the way, made me burst into even more hilarity
At any rate, the whole point of this message is that we live in and wear many sacks throughout our days. Some we consciously choose, a few tackle us when we least expect them, throwing our emotions into chaos. The challenge is to get out of the bad stuff as quickly as possible.
The lesson is to trust our faith and strength, realizing that just as the crappy stuff sometimes engulfs us, the wonderful, comical, and joyful is waiting for us to return to the good stuff. In a recent blog, Ancient Wisdom, we wrote about being strong.
So here it is, being strong will not prevent you from somersaulting into the Sad Sack, however, being strong will be the only thing that will get you out into something better.
You have the power and strength to reduce the size of your sacks, whichever ones you choose. Good Luck.
by Janet J. Seahorn
It is such a privilege to write our blogs and then hear back from some of our readers. The blog on “Tears of a Mother” brought many wonderful comments. One such reader sent this message which made me smile. He wrote:
A SHORT STORY. MY WIFE AND I HAVE BEEN MARRIED FOR 40 YEARS. WE ARE HIGH SCHOOL SWEETHEARTS AND WHEN I GOT HOME FROM MY LAST HOSP STAY FOR A PANIC ATTACK, I ASKED HER WHY SHE HAS STAYED WITH ME FOR SO LONG. HER EXACT WORDS WERE. “I KNEW YOU WERE A CHANGED PERSON WHEN YOU GOT HOME. HER FRIENDS AND FAMILY SAID I WAS DAMAGED. SHE TOLD THEM THAT THE MAN IS SCARED OF EVERYTHING AROUND HIM. AND THAT SHE LOVED ME”. I DO NOT TRAVEL TOO FAR WITHOUT MY WIFE. I CALL HER MY HANDLER.
Isn’t that just the sweetest compliment he gave his wife, “my handler”, which, as you can see, he stated with genuine love and gratitude. His message reminded me of a very endearing commercial for “shelter” dogs we have here in Colorado. It starts out, “Don’t pity a shelter dog — honor him. Shelter dogs aren’t broken, they’ve just experienced a little more of life. In many ancient times they would be considered wise. They are the ones with tales to tell and stories to write. They have faced life’s challenges with courage and pride, and survived with honor and dignity”.
Sounds like many of our amazing vets. Just like these shelter dogs who have experienced a bit more than their canine siblings, veterans aren’t broken, damaged, or to be pitied. Most have gathered a deeper wisdom regarding life. And, yes, they have tales to tell and stories to write. With courage and pride they continue to live every day of their lives with honor and dignity.
Shelter dogs and vets. Golly, what a wonderful way to view the challenges of life…and PTSD.
by Janet J. Seahorn
Look into the face of your loving four-legged pet, and I would bet you would see the eyes of GOD. A being so unconditionally loving and faithful, that nothing or no one could keep it from being near our sides. We have written several times about the value of pets. For someone living with Posttraumatic Stress or a serious Traumatic Brain Injury, pets can offer a sense of comfort and well-being that are beyond modern medications; and the side effects are far more positive.
We get many comments and videos from our readers testifying to the upbeat effects their pets have had on them. This week a friend sent us a one we had not seen before. We thought many of you would enjoy viewing this short and touching piece. We also included another written story that has appeared over the internet on many occasions. More than likely, most of you have read it, but every time I see it, and am tempted to delete without reading… something pulls me to the picture and I begin viewing it once more, ending always with tear filled Kleenexes.
You see, this last piece is a true chronicle of what many of our service people and their loving pets sacrifice for our country. Not everyone understands that pets pay a high price for their masters’ deployment. Yet, they do, silently, patiently waiting for that one special person to return. There is no greater joy than the homecoming of a beloved member of a family.
So here is to DOG and to GOD: D = Devotion; O = Omnipresent; G = Goodness/Gift; in any order it means the same thing.
by Janet & Tony Seahorn
It was a small, black & white, furry 5-pound bundle of emotional and physical relief. His name was Petie, the keeper of an adult warrior, Purple Heart, Vietnam Veteran.
The vet trained him as his first alert. An important task. Petie knew when his master needed to take his medications. He would wakeup Dennis at various times in the middle of the night so that specific pills were administered at the most critical time in order to keep the Post Traumatic Stress under control.
Dennis trained Petie especially for this purpose. They are best friends and constant companions, never apart. This small, furry medic is essential, not just for the vet’s physical well-being, but even more important, his emotional/mental stability.
Petie alerts Dennis when there is danger in the surroundings. He watches intently everything that goes on with his owner and around his owner. If Petie isn’t comfortable his master knows to pay closer attention to his current environment. If Petie doesn’t like you, more than likely Dennis isn’t going to become too friendly either.
They coexist, two different species, one functioning entity.
There are numerous organizations that train service dogs. Dogs that serve the deaf, blind, and epileptic individual. Dogs that act as the arms and legs of those who no longer have capacity to move on their own. Now, some of these groups are training dogs to do something even more challenging, knowing when their owner may go into a PTSD anxiety attack.
The dog must sense when such attacks may occur before they actually manifest themselves. They know even before the person that something is coming on – giving their owner an opportunity to breathe, use relaxation techniques, and take medication if necessary. They provide a sense of security and well-being in a world filled with unpredictability and potential stressors.
One such training organization is NEADS – Dogs for Deaf and Disabled Americans.
They are conducting an in-depth study of nine-ten Iraq vets who has severe PTSD. The study’s focus is to evaluate the most effective canine training methods that serve the sensitive needs of a veteran suffering from combat stress.
This is a very expensive and challenging research project because it must take into account the behaviors of two very different organisms: human and canine.
It will be a critical piece of information given the increasing number of individuals returning from the Iraq and Afghanistan theaters and those that have served in past wars such as Vietnam and the Gulf War.