Healing Wounded Hearts One Lick at a Time

Written by on July 11, 2014 in Sense of Purpose with 25 Comments

Companion Pets for Vets FundraiserToday I want to share with you a story, one that is happening all around us. In fact, if you know a veteran who has returned home from a combat situation there is a good chance they may be all too familiar with this story.

You see this is a story about how many of our veterans survive the dangers of battle only to return home to face an uphill struggle with feelings of isolation leading to suicide, family abuse and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). The harsh realities of transition to civilian life after military duty can cause a downward spiral of apathy, unemployment, broken relationships, addiction and depression.

If a veteran is lucky enough to get help from our Veteran’s Administration (Yes, that’s an intentional dig at our dysfunctional system!) there are tools to learn to manage many of the symptoms of PTSD, but not cure it or effectively sooth the emotional scars.

The Staggering Statistics

According to the last report issue by the Veterans Administration, every day 22 veterans take their own lives. That’s a suicide every 65 minutes. As shocking as this is, there’s a good chance the number may actually be much higher.

The data in the report was compiled through 2011 and only includes 21 states because many – such as California and Texas – chose not to make data available.

Another problem is there is no uniform reporting system in the US and the VA themselves acknowledge the “significant limitations” of the data, particularly with regard to female veterans and the homeless.

Finally, many suicides are simply not reported because families do not want to be associated with the stigma.

How Blade Overcame the Odds With Help From a Friend

Blade and DDBlade Antony served as a medic in the Marine Corp. He returned home from Iraq feeling alone and out of place, angry at people who didn’t understand his struggle with PTSD, the nightmares or that he was constantly on the verge of committing suicide.

Blade believes it was a miracle that led him to Pets for Vets because he’s sure that otherwise he would have become just another statistic. Pets for Vets is a 501c3 nonprofit organization dedicated to supporting veterans and giving a second chance to shelter animals by rescuing, training and pairing them in a match that will help to provide a new lease on life.

After a long search for just the right match, the Pets for Vets team found DD, a Pitt Bull/Labrador mix they rescued from a shelter. She had been abandoned and suffered from a terrible case of mange causing her to lose most of her fur. She was nursed back to full health and then underwent extensive training because Pets for Vets knew she was the dog that would help to heal Blade.

Today DD and Blade are inseparable. Blade no longer loses sleep over nightmares because he no longer has any! He credits this to his Pets for Vets dog, DD. “DD and Pets for Vets saved my life.” says Blade.

Dogs are our link to paradise. they don’t know evil or jealousy or discontent. to site with a dog on a hillside on a glorious afternoon is to be back in Eden, where doing nothing was not boring – it was peace. ~Author Unknown

Companion Pets for Veterans

Medical research has shown that companion animals can draw out even the most isolated personality, and help traumatized veterans reduce stress and overcome depression, anxiety and emotional numbness.

But not only the veterans benefit; in many cases, the dogs that are teamed up with veterans in the program have come perilously close to succumbing as well, since the pets in the program are pulled from shelters, sometimes only hours away from being euthanized simply because of a lack of space.

Meet Steve and Dozer

 

Let today be the day you give up who you’ve been for who you can become.
About Marquita Herald

Marquita Herald

Marquita is an author, resilience coach and the chief evangelist at Emotionally Resilient Living. She’s also an unapologetic workaholic who loves red wine, rock n’ roll, road trips (and car dancing!), peanut butter cookies and (especially) a dog named Lucy.

She’s saddened and frustrated by excuses and cruelty and believes authentic compassion is the most powerful force in the world.

To learn more about Marquita and the mission of Emotionally Resilient Living  click here.

 

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  1. Mark
    Twitter:
    says:

    This is so awesome Marquita!

    There is so much wrong with VA! Thanks so much for showing how caring and doing actually work!!

    Those incredibly brave men & women who voluntarily sacrificed so much! Only to return yo receive so little in return!

    From the very people that are able to be so cavalier about what this great nations offers!

    Some of us really have no idea what real problems are! Thank you so much for shedding light on this incredibly tragic situation!
    Mark recently posted…Three Extremely Powerful Reasons Why Endorsements And Long Term Success Go Hand In Hand!Part TwoMy Profile

    • martyherald says:

      Glad you found the article worthwhile Mark! It’s a cause I believe in and hope to be able to help raise awareness about the need to help our service men and women get more support in the future.

  2. nick catricala
    Twitter:
    says:

    Marquita,
    this article was a surprise for me.. but I thank you of writing it and for openly exposing the suffering of so many men and women who served in the army.

    I was aware of some problems and I now can see that I only knew very little and for sure there is much more to know about all this issue since there many people suffering at different levels.

    I was not aware of Pets for Vets – or the Companion Pets for Veterans Fundraiser since I am here in canada.. but perhaps if I search there may be other agencies here to help the vets that come back after servicing the country.

    I am happy to make a small donation and support your fundraising and wish you all the success this cause deserve to have.

    Thanks for sharing.
    _nickc
    nick catricala recently posted…A Lifetime Commitment -Part 5 of 6My Profile

  3. Dave
    Twitter:
    says:

    A wonderful set of stories and a very worthy cause to be fighting for Marty. Thank you for taking the initiative that so many of us talk about, but never seem to get around to doing.

    I recently became aware of some unsettling new from veterans around the Independence Day holiday, ironically, the day that we are celebrating those men and women who have fought for our very independence.

    The fireworks that individuals set off in their backyard are triggers for many veterans and their PTSD tendencies. Although it may be difficult for the common person to understand, the abrupt shock and surprise associated with these fireworks causes them to relapse to situations where those same sounds made them fear for their life.

    It is only in sharing these stories and the difficulties of acclimating to civilian life after such a harrowing and courageous endeavor that we can even begin to appreciate what these men and women have sacrificed for us. Thank you for helping to aid this cause!
    Dave recently posted…AwakenedMy Profile

    • martyherald says:

      Thank you for sharing and for your contribution to the campaign Dave. 🙂 Sadly there are many things most of us take for granted that can cause distress for someone with PTSD. Many years ago I was close to a veteran who’d just returned from a tour in Vietnam and suffered from PTSD, but I didn’t really know anything about the condition at the time and was far too young to understand what to do when the nightmares came. Even the sound of a plane overhead on the approach to LAX set him off. We drifted apart but I’ve never forgotten him and he was definitely in my mind when I decided to commit to this fundraiser.

  4. Marty Diamond
    Twitter:
    says:

    Happy to contribute and to send friends and family – it’s a great cause
    Marty Diamond recently posted…Understanding Google Webmaster ToolsMy Profile

  5. Marquita – This is an amazing post and what an awesome idea.

    We have an adopted teen from Russia and he has PTSD amongst other things and we have dogs.

    I have seen first had how building a bond with a dog has helped him.

    You post has such a great story, not only does it help save the lives of or service men who give everything for our country it rescues dogs, who have nothing to give but love.

    I have made my small donation to help your cause, good luck exceeding your target!

    Thanks Andy
    Andy Lockhart recently posted…The 6 Steps to growing your Sales Funnel using Social MediaMy Profile

    • martyherald says:

      Hey Andy, thank you for sharing your story! You and your family obviously know on a very personal level how valuable this type of program can be. I am SO appreciative of your donation and am confident we’ll hit our target. For me this is a long-term commitment so I see this campaign as the first of many future veteran-pet matches.

  6. Kimba
    Twitter:
    says:

    THANK YOU for sharing this lovely story about Pets for Vets. I had never heard of this organization until now (my husband is a OEF vet and we support several organizations that support vets). Will add this one to our list!
    Kimba recently posted…Who Ya Callin’ a Girly Girl?!My Profile

    • martyherald says:

      Thanks for taking the time to share your thoughts Kimba and especially for supporting our returning veterans – I think they need all the help we an give them. 🙂

  7. The number of suicide is out of this world!!! I had no idea. Most people don’t understand the struggle so many veteran face when they come back. I believe in this program because I know how powerful the love between people and their pets can be. I love that this program “matches” the dog to the personality and need of the veteran…how cool! I hope a lot of veteran (family) see this and get help thought them. Thank you for sharing this story.
    Nathalie Villeneuve recently posted…Update your wardrobe for Summer!My Profile

    • martyherald says:

      Welcome back Nathalie. Yes, the statistics are stunning, especially when you consider that there’s a good chance this is just the tip of the proverbial iceberg. Thanks for taking the time to learn about this issue and for sharing with your social media community – very much appreciated!

  8. Suzie Cheel
    Twitter:
    says:

    How magical and beautiful, you are a shining light really making a difference in the world. Thank you your story touched my heart and I love that these dogs empower and create change
    Namaste
    Suzie Cheel recently posted…Day 11: Heart Whisper Gratitude Challenge: Release with The Full MoonMy Profile

  9. donna merrill
    Twitter:
    says:

    This is so awesome Marquita!

    I have dogs, and know very well how they can bring love and joy to people. Our vets deserve so much! Contributing to this not only helps our vets, but places those little angels that have no home with them.

    It’s a win win situation! I commend you for stepping up and doing this and you know you have my full support. I will share with my friends. Keep us posted on how you are doing.

    -Donna
    donna merrill recently posted…Sidebar BlindnessMy Profile

    • martyherald says:

      Thank you SO much for your support of this cause and for passing the word along to your vast community of followers! And thank you especially for stepping up and making a contribution. Every dollar will help to make a difference – and I will definitely keep all of our supporters up to date over the course of the campaign. 🙂

  10. Marty,

    Very inspiring and motivational story! I served in the Army for 25 years and retired in 2008. I have seen a lot in that time! I can so easily comprehend all that you mention here in regards to the VA and the struggles that Soldiers go through not only while serving their country but especially after they move on to civilian life.

    Even for me it was a hard transition. I spent the majority of my time working in what they call Soldier Readiness Centers. As Medical Providers, we had to ensure the Soldiers were prepared for deployment both physically and mentally. Upon their return we had to reverse that process.

    I cannot put into words just what I have seen and experienced. I would just say that your Pets for Vets is a wonderful cause and one that I hope everyone participates in. Most Soldiers join the military NOT for the money. The money is not great, trust me. There is no price tag you can place on what they go through both while in the millitary service as well as when they move on to civilian life.

    Thanks for sharing!
    Nathaniel Kidd recently posted…Change Your Eating Habits and Increase Your SavingsMy Profile

    • martyherald says:

      So glad you found the article and topic of value Nathaniel! Even though this has been introduced as a fundraiser with a specific goal, this is a long term commitment. I’ve always felt we needed to do more for our returning vets and I am a life-long lover of dogs so it’s an easy cause for me to commit to. My initial goal is to fund this first vet-pet match by the end of the year to hopefully give a little more light to someone for the holidays. Thanks so much for contributing to the conversation and helping to spread the word!

  11. Sebastian Aiden Daniels
    Twitter:
    says:

    This is a much needed post. The awareness of the struggles returning veterans have is increasing, but it can always use more awareness. It is sad that people ignore how damaging the effects of war can have on our soldiers and how that transition back to normal living is so difficult. The pets for Vets is amazingly helpful as you stated above. Keep up the good work Marquita.
    Sebastian Aiden Daniels recently posted…45 Perseverance Quotes to Remind You Not to Give UpMy Profile

  12. Gregory Smokey Bowen
    Twitter:
    says:

    Hello Marquita……I have had pets most of my life , and it is truly amazing how the effect us inside our hearts and minds…..I had an old dog named Bill for many years through high School and he stayed with my mother for many years after that……he was truly part of the family….This is a very worthy cause, hooking up pets with the Vets…..Me being a Veteran myself, every time I go to my Primary care Physician, I see and visit with others that would benefit from Pets for Vets….Thank you Marquita……Smokey
    Gregory Smokey Bowen recently posted…The Four Circles of the DrumMy Profile

  13. Karo
    Twitter:
    says:

    I believe that there is a reason for everything we do, and reading your blog was a happy “coincidence” for me today. A family member, not a veteran, is suffering from deep depression. I will do some more research about the healing power of pets, and if it’s conclusive, I will get them a dog. Thank you for sharing this beautiful story!!!
    Karo recently posted…How Robert Graves & his muses pulled me through a crisisMy Profile

    • martyherald says:

      Welcome Karo and so glad you found the information in the article useful. Just one thing – if you’re going to go the DIY route with a dog please keep in mind there is very specialized training involved in order for the companion pet to be able to adjust to the behaviors of someone with PTSD. Wishing you all the best!

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