And man created dog

Luis Carlos Montalvan and Service Dog Tuesday

Golden Retriever Tuesday is an incredible service dog who helps an Iraq veteran to overcome his debilitating PTSD. I have posted about this wonderful team several times (here, here, here, here & here), and they are featured at my Mitigating a World of Hurt – Psychiatric Service Dogs Stepping up to the Challenge webpage (landofpuregold.com/sitstaysoothe.htm).

Well, now they are going to be a part of what looks to be a wonderful documentary airing Sunday, August 8th, at 8pm est / 9pm pst on the National Geographic Channel.

and Man created Dog

As detailed at the National Geographic Channel site, “If humans were as varied as dogs we would range in height up to 22 feet tall and in weight more than 1,000 pounds. In the ultimate canine ancestral story, NGC traces the genetic journey from wolf to dog, taking viewers back 100,000 years to meet the “mother of all dogs.” It’s no accident that dogs evolved this way, as humans have been selectively breeding them for around 14,000 years to serve our needs as laborer, companion, hunter, herder and warrior, as well as to suit our aesthetic fancy.”

The dog is considered to be the most varied mammal on the planet. This variety is a due to human tinkering – or artificial selection – that began more than 15,000 years ago, when humans began selecting traits they wanted or needed in their canine companions. Here are some interesting facts detailed about our favorite furry family members:

  • The world’s fastest breed of dog, the Greyhound has an astounding heart. A 65-pound greyhound’s heart is about the same size as that of a human athlete weighing twice as much, yet the running greyhound’s heart rate beats twice as fast as the running human’s: about 310 to 340 beats/minute vs. 170 to 210 for the human.
  • The only animal that can accelerate faster than a greyhound over a short distance is a cheetah.
  • One of the greatest challenges for canine athletes is the grueling 1,000-mile Iditarod sled dog race in Alaska. Scientists found that the average husky burned 11,000 calories a day – or about eight times the proportional calories a Tour de France cyclist burns. In addition, the dogs take in triple the oxygen of human athletes.
  • A dog’s sense of smell is much more sophisticated than a human’s. While the strongest odor overwhelms all others to our noses, the dog can differentiate a myriad of scents simultaneously. Dogs devote 40 times more brainpower to smell than humans.
  • Dogs have vastly superior hearing than humans, but they are born deaf, with their ear canals sealed. They cannot hear until they are about two weeks old. When they mature, they can hear sounds at four times the distance we can.
  • The human ear is fixed, but a dog and tilt, turn, raise, and lower their ears to pinpoint the origin of sound. They can also work each ear independently of the other.
  • Dogs can be taught to understand well over 100 spoken words. Dr. Stanley Coren says the average dog can be taught as many as 165 individual words – more words than an ape can recognize.
  • Dogs communicate with each other by using body language as well as vocalization. The tail is the most obvious signaling device. Here are the definitions of some dog tail positions: Tail up and curved over the back: confident pose of the dominant dog. Tail tucked between the legs: sign of fear, submission.
  • One of the most human gestures of a dog is the yawn. But while we yawn to increase oxygen flow, a dog’s yawn is a sign of anxiety or stress.
  • Dogs cannot smile, so their happy expression is a slightly open mouth with the tongue slightly draped over the lower teeth.
  • Modern-day needs have led to modern-day breeds. The Labradoodle, a cross between a Labrador retriever and a standard poodle was originally bred to create an intelligent, easily trained guide dog for blind people with allergies to retriever dog fur.
  • Dogs not only have acute sense of smell, but that they can be trained to use that sense to help us. Most remarkable is the experiment where five ordinary dogs were trained to detect breast and lung cancer in the exhaled breath of people. Their detection accuracy was between 88 and 97 percent.
  • The dog is the most varied mammal on the planet with the extremes of variation so dramatic that they achieve two orders of magnitude — ranging from the two-pound Chihuahua to the 200-pound mastiff. In height terms, the range is from the not-quite-seven-inch-high dachshund to the three-and-a-half-foot-tall Great Dane.
  • While variations in most animals are a result of natural selection, the vast variety of widely differing traits we see in dogs is the result of human-directed artificial selection. Now a study by scientists at the University of Washington has found that such breeding has altered 155 distinct genetic locations of dogs that could account for such breed differences as size, coat color, texture, and behavior.

Wounded veterans take case for service dogs to Capitol Hill

For Iraqi war vet Luiz Montalvan, Golden Retriever Tuesday can pick up a dropped cane, even sense when he needs his medications. Wounded veterans and their service dogs were on Capitol Hill recently hoping to get more support for service dog programs. Vodpod videos no longer available.


Learn more about Psychiatric Service Dogs here.

Mitigating a World of Hurt: PSDs Stepping up to the Challenge

We have a new area at our foundation site, so that we can post personal concerns, pet peeves, and honestly, whatever tickles my fancy. It may involve dogs of any persuasion or it may not. The only determinant for inclusion is that the topic is IMPORTANT TO US.  Some of the latest topics have included:

The NEWEST topic is this:

Vodpod videos no longer available.

Here’s part of the lead in to the page:

The concept of the Psychiatric Service Dog (PSD) has received an increased emphasis in the media, their status elevated due to the concerns regarding the huge numbers of war veterans suffering with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) as well as Traumatic Brain Injury due to the use of the improvised explosive device (IED). Some estimates show greater than one third of vets returning home from war in Iraq and Afghanistan are suffering from PTSD, this article on declining morale of US troops in Afghanistan revealing the significant societal impact:

Think tank RAND report in 2008 had revealed 300,000 veterans returning home from Iraq and Afghanistan had been diagnosed with severe depression or post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). It said more soldiers were going AWOL to find treatment from PTSD. RAND further reveals that rates of PTSD and traumatic brain injury among troops taking part in war on terror have been excessively high, with a third of returning troops reporting psychic problems and 18.5% of all returning service personnel battling either PTSD or depression. Marine suicides doubled between 2006 and 2007; army suicides are at highest rate since records were kept in 1980. There has been 80% increase in desertions since 2003. Over 150 GIs refused service while about 250 war resisters are taking refuge in Canada. 1700 strong GI resistance is gaining momentum. The veterans have signed up for anti-war Oath Keepers (an association of serving military officers, reserves, National Guard, veterans, fire fighters). Longer war drags on more resistance from within ranks. Hundreds of letters have been written to Obama by serving and retired servicemen, urging him to bring back US troops. Long absence from homes is escalating divorce rates. …

Mental state of those on duty on scattered posts is worst since they feel scared. Many suffer from mental disorders. Sleeplessness and bouts of anger are common. Many are found broken down and weeping since the faceless enemy frustrates them. Seeing their comrades blown up shatters them. They feel irritated that in their bid to help the population by giving them humanitarian assistance, they do not cooperate and often lie and tend to protect Taliban. Recent rules of engagement to minimize civilian casualties are seen as fighting with one arm tied behind backs. Most demoralizing thing is that soldiers are not getting killed in combat actions but by roadside bombs on routine journeys. In 2009, most casualties were from IEDs and still are. All combat missions are accepted with a heavy heart. There is no sense of pride or accomplishment in them. None want to die or get crippled. All they desire is complete their tenure and return home safely in one piece.

Here is so much more . . . .

No Way to Treat a Veteran & his Golden Service Dog – Updated

Luis Montalvan, left, a disabled veteran, and his service dog, Golden Retriever Tuesday, met Sen. Al Franken by chance at an inaugural ball in Washington. The former Army captain was wounded in Iraq.

I’ve posted about Al Franken here, here ,here, & here and continue to be so impressed by what he is trying to do in truly making a difference for his constituents. He is a dog lover, of course, as one would expect him to be. A Labrador Retriever guy, in fact. I love that his initial legislation was inspired by a Golden Retriever named Tuesday, and involves the utilization of service dogs in helping to ease the physical and emotional pain of our returning war veterans.

On Nov 16th the good senator penned a commentary about this, A small way to give back to veterans who gave so much“.

One reason I ran for the Senate was to do right by our veterans, and my first piece of legislation was designed to address this epidemic of mental health issues, if in just a small way. I presented a Senate bill, signed into law last month, that creates a public/private partnership to share the cost of providing approximately 200 highly trained service dogs to veterans who have been wounded physically and mentally. The VA will study the benefits to these vets.

My strong belief is that these veterans will require less medication, reduced human care and fewer hospitalizations, and will become more productive citizens. To me, it’s enough that the dogs simply make these vets feel better. But I hope that the study will demonstrate a strong return on investment and that before long we will see an expansion of this program. …

I think of those veterans who survived battle only to struggle with wounds of war, both physical and mental. Many of them gave up two lives too. But we can do more than remember. We can act, and make a difference.

I am sure that Al is quite upset about this suit and how tough life really is for many of our disabled. This is not a new concern. Many people who have service dogs need to worry about their safety, as well as that of their service animal, as there is sometimes no way to escape the ignorance from what we refer to as human beings.

Amazingly, I can barely see a mention of this in the news, but was impressed by this Nov 24th article by Kevin Diaz in the Minneapolis, MN Star Tribune.

A disabled veteran who inspired Sen. Al Franken’s first legislative victory — a service dog program for disabled veterans — is suing McDonald’s for $10 million after allegedly being harassed, beaten, and told that he couldn’t take his service dog inside a fast food restaurant in New York City.

Luis Carlos Montalvan, a former Army captain who was wounded in Iraq, said he was confronted by restaurant workers on two separate visits, and beaten with garbage can lids on a third when he returned with a camera in hand.

Franken, in an e-mail message to Montalvan last week, called it an “awful, bizarre story.” …

Repaying sacrifice
Montalvan, 36, of Brooklyn, filed suit Oct. 28, a week after Congress approved Franken’s provision establishing a pilot program to pair 200 wounded veterans with service dogs from nonprofit agencies. In championing the legislation, Franken cited Montalvan and his service dog, Tuesday, whom he had met in a chance encounter at a presidential inaugural ball in Washington.

Franken said Friday that the incident underscores the problems of returning veterans. “Captain Montalvan made great sacrifices fighting for our country in Iraq,” Franken said. “I’m not entirely familiar with the facts of this case, but what I do know underscores both the need to help our returning veterans and to raise awareness and increase access for service dogs.”

Montalvan served two tours of duty in Iraq, suffering wounds in a knife and hand grenade attack that left him with spinal cord damage, traumatic brain injuries, and post-traumatic stress disorder. Tuesday, his service dog, is a golden retriever who helps him with balance, mobility and emotional support.

I read that a group of veterans are planning to protest outside the restaurant today on Montalvan’s behalf. As soon as I learn something, I will provide an update here.

NOV 25 UPDATE: Click here to see the video of Luis, Tuesday and some supporters demonstrating at the respective McDonalds.

Here are two fabulous video clips detailing Captain Montalvan’s and Golden Tuesday’s wonderful working union.

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A small way to give back to veterans who gave so much

Al Franken’s *Golden Retriever* inspiration – Update

I’ve posted about Al Franken here, here & here, and continue to be so impressed by what he is trying to do in truly making a difference for his constituents. He is a dog lover, of course, as one would expect him to be. A Labrador Retriever guy, in fact.

Contributing Editor Warren Kalbacker squared off with Franken for hours across the comic’s dining room table while Franken’s Labrador relaxed underneath. “He is a thoughtful host,” Kalbacker reports. “He’s intense and obviously opinionated. He’s also physical. He interrupted our sessions a couple of times to wrestle his huge retriever into a headlock.”

It was very hard to learn about his beloved Kirby.

Franken shifts positions and pulls his wallet out of his back pocket and throws it on the coffee table next to a wooden bowl full of fake cherries Franni bought at Target. It’s all chewed up—the work, he says, of the late Kirby, the dog pictured in the Vikings helmet in the campaign slideshow and also framed on the wall in this room. “Now I don’t want to get rid of it, because Kirby did this,” he says, looking at the gnawed wallet. “Because we had to put Kirby down about a month ago. It was awful. He was only 8. He had cancer in his leg, in his bone, and at any minute his bone could shatter. And so I would have cut his leg off—I’ve seen some very happy three-legged dogs—but it had metastasized, so we had to put him down, and it was just awful. You know, it’s the whole family being with Kirby and hugging him while he’s being injected, and it’s the worst.” Franken’s voice is cracking a little. “Let’s not bring it up anymore, because I get upset,” he says, wiping his eyes. “I get really … boy, that was a terrible day. That was a terrible weekend. Really tough. George Carlin once said that anytime you buy a dog you’re buying a tragedy.” He laughs but he has to wipe his eyes again, and again he asks that we move on to another topic, so I ask about what kind of politics he was raised with.

“Great. You go from my dog to my parents. Gimme a second. Sheesh.” Franken takes his glasses off, and Franni comes in and wipes his eyes with her thumbs. She holds his face in her hands and says, “Why don’t you excuse yourself for a minute?”

So, learning that his first goal as a new Senator was to provide Service Dogs for war veterans did not surprise me in the least. He has obviously done his homework and knows how dreadfully expensive (~$25,000 per dog) it is to train these types of service dogs. Hoping to provide hundreds of them to veterans through his bill would be something, for sure.

“Service dogs … can be of immense benefit to vets suffering from physical and emotional wounds,” Franken wrote in a column published in the Star Tribune. “Yes, they provide companionship. But they can also detect changes in a person’s breathing, perspiration or scent to anticipate and ward off an impending panic attack with some well-timed nuzzling. They are trained to let their masters know when it’s time to take their medication and to wake them from terrifying nightmares.” …

The Minnesota Democrat also said there is evidence to show that this kind of program could help reduce the suicide rate among veterans. “Frankly, I believe it is enough simply to improve the lives of those of whom we asked so much,” Franken wrote. “But this program isn’t just the right thing to do. It’s the smart thing to do. This is win, win, win, win.”

What is also fascinating is how this desire was spurred by his meeting Luis Carlos Montalvan and his Service Golden Retriever Tuesday at an inaugural event this past January, as noted in AL’s OpEd: Al Franken: A wounded veteran’s best friend: A chance encounter inspires my first bill — Legislation making the service dog program more affordable for our troops.

Luis had been an intelligence officer in Iraq, rooting out corruption in Anbar Province. In 2005, Capt. Montalvan was the target of an assassination attempt. Now he walks with a cane and suffers from severe post-traumatic stress disorder. Luis explained that he couldn’t have made it to the inauguration if it weren’t for his dog.

As someone who’s spent time with our troops in Iraq and Afghanistan on USO tours and met wounded warriors at Walter Reed and Bethesda, I feel a deep obligation to the men and women who have risked life and limb on our behalf.

After I met Luis, I did some research. Service dogs like Tuesday can be of immense benefit to vets suffering from physical and emotional wounds. Yes, they provide companionship. But they can also detect changes in a person’s breathing, perspiration or scent to anticipate and ward off an impending panic attack with some well-timed nuzzling. They are trained to let their masters know when it’s time to take their medication and to wake them from terrifying nightmares.

Service dogs raise their masters’ sense of well-being. There is evidence to suggest that increasing their numbers would reduce the alarming suicide rate among veterans, decrease the number of hospitalizations, and lower the cost of medications and human care.

Veterans report that service dogs help break their isolation. People will often avert their eyes when they see a wounded veteran. But when the veteran has a dog, the same people will come up and say hi to pet the dog and then strike up a conversation.

Two months ago I posted about this special team: Sit! Stay! Snuggle!: An Iraq Vet & his Service Golden Retriever Tuesday.

Like any other golden retriever seeking a treat, Tuesday nudged his owner’s hand with his snout one recent morning and waited expectantly. Luis Carlos Montalvan got up from a chair in his small Brooklyn apartment and walked to the kitchen. Tuesday followed close behind, eyes fixed on a white cabinet. The retriever sat alertly as Mr. Montalvan, an Iraq war veteran with severe post-traumatic stress disorder, reached for a vial of pills, lined a half-dozen on the table and took them one by one.

The dog had gotten what he wanted: When the last pill was swallowed, he got up and followed his master out of the kitchen, tail wagging.

Tuesday is a so-called psychiatric-service dog, a new generation of animals trained to help people whose suffering is not physical, but emotional. They are, effectively, Seeing Eye dogs for the mind.

Tuesday is with Mr. Montalvan at all hours. Taught to recognize changes in a person’s breathing, perspiration or scent that can indicate an imminent panic attack, Tuesday can keep Mr. Montalvan buffered from crowds or deliver a calming nuzzle. Other dogs, typically golden retrievers, Labradors or Labrador retriever blends, are trained to wake masters from debilitating nightmares and to help patients differentiate between hallucinations and reality by barking if a real person is nearby.

“Tuesday is just extraordinarily empathetic,” said Mr. Montalvan, 36 years old, a retired Army captain who received a Purple Heart for wounds he suffered in Iraq. “In bad moments, he’ll lay his head on my leg, and it’ll be like he’s saying, ‘You’re OK. You’re not alone.'”

Here are two of the video clips detailing this wonderful working union.

Vodpod videos no longer available.

Vodpod videos no longer available.


Senator Franken’s bill, the Franken-Isakson Service Dogs for Veterans Act, was passed unanimously in July, tacked onto the Defense Authorization. However, now it must pass a joint committee to become law.

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Specifically, the Franken-Isakson Service Dogs for Veterans Act will:

  • Pair a minimum of 200 veterans and dogs, or the minimum number necessary to produce scientifically valid results on the benefits of the use of the dogs (whichever is greater).
  • Ensure that 50 percent of veterans participating in the pilot program will be those who suffer primarily from mental health disabilities, and fifty percent those who suffer primarily from physical injuries or disabilities.
  • Direct VA to partner exclusively with non-profit agencies who do not charge for their animals, services, or lodging.
  • Require VA to provide seed money to pay for the first 50 service dogs, and match its non-profit partners’ contributions for the rest of the service dogs.
  • Continue the pilot program for at least three years; the Secretary of the VA must make annual reports to Congress on its implementation; the National Academies of Science is directed to study and report on the program’s effectiveness at the end of three years.
  • The scientific study of the pilot program will study both the therapeutic benefits to veterans, including quality of life benefits reported by the veterans; and the economic benefits of using service dogs, including savings on health care costs, such as reduced hospitalization and prescription drug use, and productivity and employment gains for the veterans.

Al Franken plus a little *Golden Retriever* inspiration

I’ve posted about Al Franken here and here and continue to be so impressed by what he is trying to do in truly making a difference for his constituents. He is a dog lover, of course, as one would expect him to be. A Labrador Retriever guy, in fact.

Contributing Editor Warren Kalbacker squared off with Franken for hours across the comic’s dining room table while Franken’s Labrador relaxed underneath. “He is a thoughtful host,” Kalbacker reports. “He’s intense and obviously opinionated. He’s also physical. He interrupted our sessions a couple of times to wrestle his huge retriever into a headlock.”

It was very hard to learn about his beloved Kirby.

Franken shifts positions and pulls his wallet out of his back pocket and throws it on the coffee table next to a wooden bowl full of fake cherries Franni bought at Target. It’s all chewed up—the work, he says, of the late Kirby, the dog pictured in the Vikings helmet in the campaign slideshow and also framed on the wall in this room. “Now I don’t want to get rid of it, because Kirby did this,” he says, looking at the gnawed wallet. “Because we had to put Kirby down about a month ago. It was awful. He was only 8. He had cancer in his leg, in his bone, and at any minute his bone could shatter. And so I would have cut his leg off—I’ve seen some very happy three-legged dogs—but it had metastasized, so we had to put him down, and it was just awful. You know, it’s the whole family being with Kirby and hugging him while he’s being injected, and it’s the worst.” Franken’s voice is cracking a little. “Let’s not bring it up anymore, because I get upset,” he says, wiping his eyes. “I get really … boy, that was a terrible day. That was a terrible weekend. Really tough. George Carlin once said that anytime you buy a dog you’re buying a tragedy.” He laughs but he has to wipe his eyes again, and again he asks that we move on to another topic, so I ask about what kind of politics he was raised with.

“Great. You go from my dog to my parents. Gimme a second. Sheesh.” Franken takes his glasses off, and Franni comes in and wipes his eyes with her thumbs. She holds his face in her hands and says, “Why don’t you excuse yourself for a minute?”

So, learning that his first goal as a new Senator was to provide Service Dogs for war veterans did not surprise me in the least. He has obviously done his homework and knows how dreadfully expensive (~$25,000 per dog) it is to train these types of service dogs. Hoping to provide hundreds of them to veterans through his bill would be something, for sure.

“Service dogs … can be of immense benefit to vets suffering from physical and emotional wounds,” Franken wrote in a column published in the Star Tribune. “Yes, they provide companionship. But they can also detect changes in a person’s breathing, perspiration or scent to anticipate and ward off an impending panic attack with some well-timed nuzzling. They are trained to let their masters know when it’s time to take their medication and to wake them from terrifying nightmares.”  …

The Minnesota Democrat also said there is evidence to show that this kind of program could help reduce the suicide rate among veterans. “Frankly, I believe it is enough simply to improve the lives of those of whom we asked so much,” Franken wrote. “But this program isn’t just the right thing to do. It’s the smart thing to do. This is win, win, win, win.”

What is also fascinating is how this desire was spurred by his meeting Luis Carlos Montalvan and his Service Golden Retriever Tuesday at an inaugural event this past January, as noted in AL’s OpEd: Al Franken: A wounded veteran’s best friend: A chance encounter inspires my first bill — Legislation making the service dog program more affordable for our troops.

Luis had been an intelligence officer in Iraq, rooting out corruption in Anbar Province. In 2005, Capt. Montalvan was the target of an assassination attempt. Now he walks with a cane and suffers from severe post-traumatic stress disorder. Luis explained that he couldn’t have made it to the inauguration if it weren’t for his dog.

As someone who’s spent time with our troops in Iraq and Afghanistan on USO tours and met wounded warriors at Walter Reed and Bethesda, I feel a deep obligation to the men and women who have risked life and limb on our behalf.

After I met Luis, I did some research. Service dogs like Tuesday can be of immense benefit to vets suffering from physical and emotional wounds. Yes, they provide companionship. But they can also detect changes in a person’s breathing, perspiration or scent to anticipate and ward off an impending panic attack with some well-timed nuzzling. They are trained to let their masters know when it’s time to take their medication and to wake them from terrifying nightmares.

Service dogs raise their masters’ sense of well-being. There is evidence to suggest that increasing their numbers would reduce the alarming suicide rate among veterans, decrease the number of hospitalizations, and lower the cost of medications and human care.

Veterans report that service dogs help break their isolation. People will often avert their eyes when they see a wounded veteran. But when the veteran has a dog, the same people will come up and say hi to pet the dog and then strike up a conversation.

A little over a week ago I posted about this special team: Sit! Stay! Snuggle!: An Iraq Vet & his Service Golden Retriever Tuesday. Go read the entire thing. It is a very special story.

Like any other golden retriever seeking a treat, Tuesday nudged his owner’s hand with his snout one recent morning and waited expectantly. Luis Carlos Montalvan got up from a chair in his small Brooklyn apartment and walked to the kitchen. Tuesday followed close behind, eyes fixed on a white cabinet. The retriever sat alertly as Mr. Montalvan, an Iraq war veteran with severe post-traumatic stress disorder, reached for a vial of pills, lined a half-dozen on the table and took them one by one.

The dog had gotten what he wanted: When the last pill was swallowed, he got up and followed his master out of the kitchen, tail wagging.

Tuesday is a so-called psychiatric-service dog, a new generation of animals trained to help people whose suffering is not physical, but emotional. They are, effectively, Seeing Eye dogs for the mind.

Tuesday is with Mr. Montalvan at all hours. Taught to recognize changes in a person’s breathing, perspiration or scent that can indicate an imminent panic attack, Tuesday can keep Mr. Montalvan buffered from crowds or deliver a calming nuzzle. Other dogs, typically golden retrievers, Labradors or Labrador retriever blends, are trained to wake masters from debilitating nightmares and to help patients differentiate between hallucinations and reality by barking if a real person is nearby.

“Tuesday is just extraordinarily empathetic,” said Mr. Montalvan, 36 years old, a retired Army captain who received a Purple Heart for wounds he suffered in Iraq. “In bad moments, he’ll lay his head on my leg, and it’ll be like he’s saying, ‘You’re OK. You’re not alone.'”

Here are two of the video clips detailing this wonderful working union.

Vodpod videos no longer available.

Vodpod videos no longer available.

Puppies Behind Bars coordinates with Project Heal from East Coast Assistance Dogs (ECAD), to honor and empower Wounded Warriors by providing specially trained Service Dogs to increase independence and make a difference in their lives. Project HEAL® Service Dogs are specially trained dogs who pick up dropped objects, open and close doors, open refrigerators, pull wheelchairs, prevent overcrowding in public, interrupt nightmares and flashbacks, remind to take meds, warn of approaching strangers and reduce anxiety and stress, all the while providing unconditional love and comfort. ECAD does not charge our Wounded Warriors for these very special Service Dogs. Each veteran is provided with 13 days of Team Training instruction either in their New York or Florida facility at a cost of $500. Housing is provided at no cost.

Sit! Stay! Snuggle!: An Iraq Vet & his Service Golden Retriever Tuesday

Luis Carlos Montalvan at a New York bookstore with Golden Retriever Tuesday, who goes with him everywhere and is trained to respond to signs of anxiety. Photo by Leslie Granda-Hill

I loved discovering Tuesday this Saturday morning. It will surely brighten your day as well.

Like any other golden retriever seeking a treat, Tuesday nudged his owner’s hand with his snout one recent morning and waited expectantly. Luis Carlos Montalvan got up from a chair in his small Brooklyn apartment and walked to the kitchen. Tuesday followed close behind, eyes fixed on a white cabinet. The retriever sat alertly as Mr. Montalvan, an Iraq war veteran with severe post-traumatic stress disorder, reached for a vial of pills, lined a half-dozen on the table and took them one by one.

The dog had gotten what he wanted: When the last pill was swallowed, he got up and followed his master out of the kitchen, tail wagging.

Tuesday is a so-called psychiatric-service dog, a new generation of animals trained to help people whose suffering is not physical, but emotional. They are, effectively, Seeing Eye dogs for the mind.

Tuesday is with Mr. Montalvan at all hours. Taught to recognize changes in a person’s breathing, perspiration or scent that can indicate an imminent panic attack, Tuesday can keep Mr. Montalvan buffered from crowds or deliver a calming nuzzle. Other dogs, typically golden retrievers, Labradors or Labrador retriever blends, are trained to wake masters from debilitating nightmares and to help patients differentiate between hallucinations and reality by barking if a real person is nearby.

“Tuesday is just extraordinarily empathetic,” said Mr. Montalvan, 36 years old, a retired Army captain who received a Purple Heart for wounds he suffered in Iraq. “In bad moments, he’ll lay his head on my leg, and it’ll be like he’s saying, ‘You’re OK. You’re not alone.'”

Seeing Eye dogs were first systematically trained in Germany during World War I to aid blinded veterans. Today, psychiatric-service dogs are being trained to help veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan battles. The federal government has given the dogs the same legal protections as other service animals, so Tuesday can ride the subway with Mr. Montalvan and accompany him to restaurants and theaters. But few of the dogs are available to former troops like Mr. Montalvan, one of the estimated 300,000 veterans of the two wars who will ultimately develop PTSD.

Vodpod videos no longer available.

Previously, I have posted articles about Puppies Behind Bars (Iraq Vet Gets Dog, New Chance at Life and Golden Retriever ‘Puppies Behind Bars’). I am just in love with this N.Y.-based non-profit organization. They have provided service dogs to individuals with disabilities since 1997, recently having expanded their program to include war veterans. To date, they have placed psychiatric-service dogs with 11 veterans and hope to provide 14 more this year. Unfortunately, it is quite difficult, especially in these economic times, to raise the $26,000 needed to train each dog.

The group coordinates with Project Heal, from East Coast Assistance Dogs (ECAD). This program honors and empowers Wounded Warriors by providing specially trained Service Dogs to increase independence and make a difference in their lives.

I am just in love with the N.Y.-based non-profit organization Puppies Behind Bars, an organization that has provided service dogs to individuals with disabilities since 1997, recently having expanded their program to include war veterans. It is coordinated with Project Heal, from East Coast Assistance Dogs (ECAD). The program honors and empowers Wounded Warriors by providing specially trained Service Dogs to increase independence and make a difference in their lives.

Project HEAL® Service Dogs are specially trained dogs who pick up dropped objects, open and close doors, open refrigerators, pull wheelchairs, prevent overcrowding in public, interrupt nightmares and flashbacks, remind to take meds, warn of approaching strangers and reduce anxiety and stress, all the while providing unconditional love and comfort. ECAD does not charge our Wounded Warriors for these very special Service Dogs. Each veteran is provided with 13 days of Team Training instruction either in their New York or Florida facility at a cost of $500. Housing is provided at no cost.

Vodpod videos no longer available.

Canine PTSD

This article is a very sad commentary on the utilization of innocent dogs for quite dangerous endeavors. While I do realize the life-saving that takes place via our canine friends at times such as earthquakes or on the slopes due to avalanches, I could never engage a dog of my own in such a field.

Operation Dexter a Success: Military Dog Gets Hero’s Welcome

It’s always a great time to share good news, and this story is just that. Go learn about Operation Dexter Flies and Military Working Dog Adoptions, the incredible organization that helps to honor rather than euthanize our critical, hard-working military dogs.

Military Dog Gets Hero’s Welcome
By George Mallet, Today’s TMJ4, January 2, 2008

The 68 pound German shepherd is a hero on four legs, an Iraq war vet who patrolled Baghdad and saved a thousand lives when he detected an explosive inside a garbage truck planted by insurgents. The terrorists had planned to blow up a mess hall.

“For an hour and a half in a hundred twenty degree heat, he was right in front of me,” Dexter’s handler, Kathleen Ellison said as she recalled a prison riot the two were called into. “He just protected me.”

MWD Dexter C067 is now retiring with hip dysplasia. Often times retirement can mean euthanasia for a military dog deemed too aggressive to be a pet. But ten-year-old Dexter will enjoy old age thanks to a dog-saving organization saveavet.org. The organization was founded by Danny Scheurer, an Iraq war vet whose life was saved by a military dog who was later put down.

“It is like watching a brother get put down,” Scheurer said with glassy eyes as he stood in Concourse C. “It’s somebody who saved your life, somebody you served with side by side getting thrown away.”

Scheurer’s group made arrangements for Dexter to stay in Spring Grove Illinois. The dog got a hero’s welcome at the airport Tuesday night. But it won’t be his last. He’ll get another hero’s welcome at Fox Lake American Legion Post 703, where he’s slated for honorary membership. He is the first retiring military dog to officially earn veteran’s status.

Please note that the following news video takes a minute or so to begin, but trust me, it does work. Just click on it a couple of times and wait for a good bit.

Vodpod videos no longer available.

Veterans helped by Healing Paws

The Military Advanced Training Center, a department at Walter Reed that cares for severely disabled veterans, is having much success utilizing therapy dogs. The hospital also refers qualified veterans to organizations like Canine Companions for Independence Veterans Program, America’s VetDogs and Neads Canines for Combat Veterans.

Larry

Master Sgt. Mark Eugene Gwathmey, 38, has been a marine since he was 19. When Sergeant Gwathmey returned home from Iraq in 2005, he began to show symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder. Unexplained seizures followed. At Walter Reed Army Medical Center he was paired with Larry, an English Labrador and golden retriever mix. The bond between them was instant. Larry, helps him cope with stress and maintain stability while walking, and has also demonstrated the potentially life-saving ability to alert Sergeant Gwathmey to a seizure before it happens. His wife, Carolyn, said: "I can't imagine life without Larry. He helps me take care of my husband."

Sharif

As a first lieutenant in the Army, Jeffrey Adams was responsible for 35 soldiers in Baghdad when he lost his leg in 2004 due to a bomb. Though a dog lover, Mr. Adams, now 29, was not sure he needed help. "You get military people that think, 'I'm an alpha male, alpha female, and I don't need a dog,' " he said. He eventually overcame his reluctance, and in February 2008 was teamed with Sharif, a yellow Labrador and golden retriever mix. Sharif is trained to respond to 40 commands, a skill that becomes crucial when Mr. Adams removes his prosthetic leg. The dog is so good at retrieving dropped objects and helping with balance that Mr. Adams's wife, Katie, jokes that Sharif has made him lazier. "But that's not it," Mr. Adams said. "He makes me safer."

Operation Baghdad Pups: Pup Ratchet Now Safe in US!

UPDATE 2:

Ratchet has arrived at Dulles International Airport after a lengthy effort to reunite the pooch with the U.S. soldier who adopted him.

Ratchet arrived from Amsterdam on Monday a day after leaving Baghdad. The black dog wearing a red, white and blue bandanna jumped out of his crate, looked around and quickly flopped down on the floor in baggage claim. He’ll spend two nights in a kennel before flying to Minneapolis.

Army Spc. Gwen Beberg says she couldn’t have made it through her 13-month deployment without the dog she and another soldier rescued.

An animal rescue group brought Ratchet to the U.S. after the military said it could not be responsible for the dog’s transportation.

Here is new video from the BBC showing this special guy on his way home.

___________________________________________

UPDATE: Last week we detailed this special tale about puppy Ratchet. Well, this special pup just got a reprieve from the U.S. military and could be headed for Minnesota by the weekend. Some US Senators and about 50,000 petition-signing dog lovers prompted the military to agree to release Ratchet, the Iraqi pup an Army sergeant is trying to get to her Minnesota home. But, due to a slow release on the part of the military, Ratchet missed the flight that would have gotten him out of Baghdad. Luckily, Operation Baghdad Pups will be trying again as they make a special trip back to Iraq this Sunday to try to retrieve him.

Thanks to Mary Jane Smetanka of The Star Tribune who is continuing to cover this touching story.

Sgt. Gwen Beberg, who adopted Ratchet as a tiny 4-week-old pup after fellow soldiers in Baghdad rescued him from a pile of burning trash, sent her mother a short e-mail Wednesday when she heard the news.

“I AM THRILLED THAT RATCHET IS GOING HOME,” she wrote.

But Beberg’s mother, Pat, said she won’t relax until the dog is in the hands of Operation Baghdad Pups. The branch of SPCA International, which was founded a year ago and relies on donations to rescue dogs and cats adopted by American military personnel in Iraq, has flown more than 50 dogs and cats to the United States. “It’s wonderful,” Pat Beberg said. “But until he’s in the hands of the Operation Baghdad Pups people, we still have to be a little reserved and cautious.”

Gwen Beberg has described the puppy as a comfort during a rough year in Iraq. She is supposed to return to the United States next month, and she tried to get Ratchet to her parents’ home in Spring Lake Park before she was transferred to a new base in Iraq last week. But a superior officer confiscated the dog on the way to the airport. Military regulations prohibit soldiers from adopting pets in Iraq.

Pat Beberg learned that Ratchet’s departure from Iraq had been cleared when Sen. Amy Klobuchar called her cell phone as she was driving to the dentist. She hopes Ratchet’s case might get the military to reconsider its policy against pets. “I want to make sure that other soldiers do not encounter this,” Beberg said. “[Gwen] is using a puppy to handle stress. Isn’t that so much better than popping a handful of pills?”

Ratchet’s case has ignited a firestorm of interest on the Internet. By Wednesday afternoon, petitions demanding clemency for the dog had been signed by more than 50,000 people around the world, and the pup’s story was posted on almost 27,000 websites. Supporters called congressional offices and Army headquarters this week demanding that something be done to save the dog. The offices of Sen. Norm Coleman, R-Minn., and Rep. Keith Ellison, D-Minn., also pushed for the dog’s release.

Northwest Airlines has offered to fly Ratchet from Kuwait to Minneapolis. Beberg’s parents would keep Ratchet until Beberg leaves the Army early next year.

________________________________________________________________________________________________

Such a sad tale.

A mutt named Ratchet has helped Gwen Beberg survive Iraq. Now, will Ratchet survive?

Army Sgt. Gwen Beberg isn’t having an easy year in Iraq. When the Spring Lake Park native bonded with an abandoned puppy found whimpering in a burning trash heap in Baghdad, she wanted to make sure the black-and-white mutt named Ratchet made it home with her.

On Oct. 1, Beberg placed 6-month-old Ratchet on an Army convoy to the Baghdad airport, where he was to be flown to her parents’ home in Minnesota by a rescue group called Operation Baghdad Pups. But the dog was taken away by an Army officer before it reached the airplane. Beberg’s family and Operation Baghdad Pups officials now fear Ratchet will be shot.

Beberg’s sorrow has become an international cause célèbre, with online petitions signed by almost 8,000 people worldwide, bloggers taking up Ratchet’s plight and a story in a London newspaper.

Beberg, who is scheduled to leave Iraq by the end of this month, also has signed one of the Internet petitions.

Sgt. Gwen Beberg befriended puppy Ratchet while serving in Iraq. The U.S. military confiscated Ratchet as Sgt. Beberg prepared to fly home from Baghdad Airport. Operation Baghdad Pups, a program run by SPCA International, is pleading with the U.S. Army to allow Ratchet to fly out of the country – amid fears the dog awaits almost certain death if left behind.

Gwen’s mom, Pat, has been trying everything to get Ratchet home safely, noting how much this would do for her daughter’s mental health.

“There are a lot of ways of being scarred other than the physical,” Pat Beberg said. “My daughter has had a really tough time over there, living in those circumstances, and the dog has been just a godsend to her.”

Pat Beberg has called the offices of Rep. Keith Ellison and Sen. Amy Klobuchar for help, but it’s not clear what will happen. She also said it is not clear where Ratchet is, but he apparently is still alive.

“We’re all sending e-mails back and forth,” she said. “Everyone is working on this. I know the military has its rules, but I think it could be some very positive PR if they were to revise and review that ruling … The military is very concerned about post-traumatic stress and high rates of suicide. When my daughter called here a week ago, she had trouble talking on the phone. She’s devastated.”

Go learn more about Operation Baghdad Pups, a quite special organization.

Terri Crisp, program director of Operation Baghdad Pups, said the group has gotten 56 dogs and cats that had been adopted by military personnel out of Iraq. As a part of SPCA International, the group uses donations to fly the animals to the U.S. on commercial and private airlines. On Oct. 1, the group had flown to Baghdad to get Ratchet and 14 other animals after suspending operations during the heat of summer. Crisp said the group has tried to keep a low profile so there’s no “ruckus” over the Army’s no-pet rule.

“There are commanding officers there who are animal lovers and recognize that these animals make a difference,” Crisp said. “We’ve had high-ranking officials bring out animals themselves.”

Ratchet, she said, has been the only animal confiscated once the evacuation process had begun, but at least 36 other animals that soldiers were trying to get out of Iraq have been destroyed.

“To me, it’s totally senseless, because they took away something that could help soldiers, and this just causes more trauma for them,” Crisp said.

Operation Baghdad Pups: A Puppy Ratchet Update!

See latest update here!

UPDATE: Last week we detailed this special tale about puppy Ratchet. Well, this special pup just got a reprieve from the U.S. military and could be headed for Minnesota by the weekend. Some US Senators and about 50,000 petition-signing dog lovers prompted the military to agree to release Ratchet, the Iraqi pup an Army sergeant is trying to get to her Minnesota home. But, due to a slow release on the part of the military, Ratchet missed the flight that would have gotten him out of Baghdad. Luckily, Operation Baghdad Pups will be trying again as they make a special trip back to Iraq this Sunday to try to retrieve him.

Thanks to Mary Jane Smetanka of The Star Tribune who is continuing to cover this touching story.

Sgt. Gwen Beberg, who adopted Ratchet as a tiny 4-week-old pup after fellow soldiers in Baghdad rescued him from a pile of burning trash, sent her mother a short e-mail Wednesday when she heard the news.

“I AM THRILLED THAT RATCHET IS GOING HOME,” she wrote.

But Beberg’s mother, Pat, said she won’t relax until the dog is in the hands of Operation Baghdad Pups. The branch of SPCA International, which was founded a year ago and relies on donations to rescue dogs and cats adopted by American military personnel in Iraq, has flown more than 50 dogs and cats to the United States. “It’s wonderful,” Pat Beberg said. “But until he’s in the hands of the Operation Baghdad Pups people, we still have to be a little reserved and cautious.”

Gwen Beberg has described the puppy as a comfort during a rough year in Iraq. She is supposed to return to the United States next month, and she tried to get Ratchet to her parents’ home in Spring Lake Park before she was transferred to a new base in Iraq last week. But a superior officer confiscated the dog on the way to the airport. Military regulations prohibit soldiers from adopting pets in Iraq.

Pat Beberg learned that Ratchet’s departure from Iraq had been cleared when Sen. Amy Klobuchar called her cell phone as she was driving to the dentist. She hopes Ratchet’s case might get the military to reconsider its policy against pets. “I want to make sure that other soldiers do not encounter this,” Beberg said. “[Gwen] is using a puppy to handle stress. Isn’t that so much better than popping a handful of pills?”

Ratchet’s case has ignited a firestorm of interest on the Internet. By Wednesday afternoon, petitions demanding clemency for the dog had been signed by more than 50,000 people around the world, and the pup’s story was posted on almost 27,000 websites. Supporters called congressional offices and Army headquarters this week demanding that something be done to save the dog. The offices of Sen. Norm Coleman, R-Minn., and Rep. Keith Ellison, D-Minn., also pushed for the dog’s release.

Northwest Airlines has offered to fly Ratchet from Kuwait to Minneapolis. Beberg’s parents would keep Ratchet until Beberg leaves the Army early next year.

________________________________________________________________________________________________

Such a sad tale.

A mutt named Ratchet has helped Gwen Beberg survive Iraq. Now, will Ratchet survive?

Army Sgt. Gwen Beberg isn’t having an easy year in Iraq. When the Spring Lake Park native bonded with an abandoned puppy found whimpering in a burning trash heap in Baghdad, she wanted to make sure the black-and-white mutt named Ratchet made it home with her.

On Oct. 1, Beberg placed 6-month-old Ratchet on an Army convoy to the Baghdad airport, where he was to be flown to her parents’ home in Minnesota by a rescue group called Operation Baghdad Pups. But the dog was taken away by an Army officer before it reached the airplane. Beberg’s family and Operation Baghdad Pups officials now fear Ratchet will be shot.

Beberg’s sorrow has become an international cause célèbre, with online petitions signed by almost 8,000 people worldwide, bloggers taking up Ratchet’s plight and a story in a London newspaper.

Beberg, who is scheduled to leave Iraq by the end of this month, also has signed one of the Internet petitions.

Sgt. Gwen Beberg befriended puppy Ratchet while serving in Iraq. The U.S. military confiscated Ratchet as Sgt. Beberg prepared to fly home from Baghdad Airport. Operation Baghdad Pups, a program run by SPCA International, is pleading with the U.S. Army to allow Ratchet to fly out of the country – amid fears the dog awaits almost certain death if left behind.

Gwen’s mom, Pat, has been trying everything to get Ratchet home safely, noting how much this would do for her daughter’s mental health.

“There are a lot of ways of being scarred other than the physical,” Pat Beberg said. “My daughter has had a really tough time over there, living in those circumstances, and the dog has been just a godsend to her.”

Pat Beberg has called the offices of Rep. Keith Ellison and Sen. Amy Klobuchar for help, but it’s not clear what will happen. She also said it is not clear where Ratchet is, but he apparently is still alive.

“We’re all sending e-mails back and forth,” she said. “Everyone is working on this. I know the military has its rules, but I think it could be some very positive PR if they were to revise and review that ruling … The military is very concerned about post-traumatic stress and high rates of suicide. When my daughter called here a week ago, she had trouble talking on the phone. She’s devastated.”

Go learn more about Operation Baghdad Pups, a quite special organization.

Terri Crisp, program director of Operation Baghdad Pups, said the group has gotten 56 dogs and cats that had been adopted by military personnel out of Iraq. As a part of SPCA International, the group uses donations to fly the animals to the U.S. on commercial and private airlines. On Oct. 1, the group had flown to Baghdad to get Ratchet and 14 other animals after suspending operations during the heat of summer. Crisp said the group has tried to keep a low profile so there’s no “ruckus” over the Army’s no-pet rule.

“There are commanding officers there who are animal lovers and recognize that these animals make a difference,” Crisp said. “We’ve had high-ranking officials bring out animals themselves.”

Ratchet, she said, has been the only animal confiscated once the evacuation process had begun, but at least 36 other animals that soldiers were trying to get out of Iraq have been destroyed.

“To me, it’s totally senseless, because they took away something that could help soldiers, and this just causes more trauma for them,” Crisp said.

Operation Baghdad Pups: Help save beloved “Ratchet”

“I couldn’t have made it through this deployment without his wagging tail and understanding eyes,” said Sgt. Gwen Beberg, shown with Ratchet in Iraq. An animal group hopes to pick up Ratchet and five other pets this week. Star Tribune Photo

See October 18, 2008 update here.

Such a sad tale.

A mutt named Ratchet has helped Gwen Beberg survive Iraq. Now, will Ratchet survive?

Army Sgt. Gwen Beberg isn’t having an easy year in Iraq. When the Spring Lake Park native bonded with an abandoned puppy found whimpering in a burning trash heap in Baghdad, she wanted to make sure the black-and-white mutt named Ratchet made it home with her.

On Oct. 1, Beberg placed 6-month-old Ratchet on an Army convoy to the Baghdad airport, where he was to be flown to her parents’ home in Minnesota by a rescue group called Operation Baghdad Pups. But the dog was taken away by an Army officer before it reached the airplane. Beberg’s family and Operation Baghdad Pups officials now fear Ratchet will be shot.

Beberg’s sorrow has become an international cause célèbre, with online petitions signed by almost 8,000 people worldwide, bloggers taking up Ratchet’s plight and a story in a London newspaper.

Beberg, who is scheduled to leave Iraq by the end of this month, also has signed one of the Internet petitions.

Sgt. Gwen Beberg befriended puppy Ratchet while serving in Iraq. The U.S. military confiscated Ratchet as Sgt. Beberg prepared to fly home from Baghdad Airport. Operation Baghdad Pups, a program run by SPCA International, is pleading with the U.S. Army to allow Ratchet to fly out of the country – amid fears the dog awaits almost certain death if left behind.

Gwen’s mom, Pat, has been trying everything to get Ratchet home safely, noting how much this would do for her daughter’s mental health.

“There are a lot of ways of being scarred other than the physical,” Pat Beberg said. “My daughter has had a really tough time over there, living in those circumstances, and the dog has been just a godsend to her.”

Pat Beberg has called the offices of Rep. Keith Ellison and Sen. Amy Klobuchar for help, but it’s not clear what will happen. She also said it is not clear where Ratchet is, but he apparently is still alive.

“We’re all sending e-mails back and forth,” she said. “Everyone is working on this. I know the military has its rules, but I think it could be some very positive PR if they were to revise and review that ruling … The military is very concerned about post-traumatic stress and high rates of suicide. When my daughter called here a week ago, she had trouble talking on the phone. She’s devastated.”

Please help our service men and woman keep their beloved pets in Iraq & Afghanistan. You can sign a petition here.

And, do go learn more about Operation Baghdad Pups, a quite special organization.

Terri Crisp, program director of Operation Baghdad Pups, said the group has gotten 56 dogs and cats that had been adopted by military personnel out of Iraq. As a part of SPCA International, the group uses donations to fly the animals to the U.S. on commercial and private airlines. On Oct. 1, the group had flown to Baghdad to get Ratchet and 14 other animals after suspending operations during the heat of summer. Crisp said the group has tried to keep a low profile so there’s no “ruckus” over the Army’s no-pet rule.

“There are commanding officers there who are animal lovers and recognize that these animals make a difference,” Crisp said. “We’ve had high-ranking officials bring out animals themselves.”

Ratchet, she said, has been the only animal confiscated once the evacuation process had begun, but at least 36 other animals that soldiers were trying to get out of Iraq have been destroyed.

“To me, it’s totally senseless, because they took away something that could help soldiers, and this just causes more trauma for them,” Crisp said.

Iraq Vet Gets Dog, New Chance at Life

Shown here, Sgt. Bill Campbell practices his photography skills as his service dog, Pax, watches his back. Since his return from Iraq in 2005, Campbell has feared an attack from behind.

Iraq Vet Gets Dog, New Chance at Life
Yellow Labrador Helps His Owner to Recover Following Injuries in Iraq

By EMILY FRIEDMAN, ABC News

Until recently, Sgt. Bill Campbell’s horrifying memories from his tour of duty in Iraq left him unable to leave his house.

Constantly fearing he would be attacked from behind — a paranoia stemming from his violent tour of duty — Campbell says his post traumatic stress disorder symptoms made everyday life virtually unbearable.

That is, until he met Pax, a now 17-month-old yellow Labrador, specially trained to help him cope with PTSD, doing everything from reminding him to take his medication to coaxing him out of his house. “Pax forces me to go out,” Campbell told ABCNEWS.com. “He has to go for walks.”

Pax was donated to Campbell by the N.Y.-based non-profit organization Puppies Behind Bars, an organization that has provided service dogs to individuals with disabilities since 1997, but just recently expanded their program to include war veterans, too.

Check out some more awesome photos here

A big thank you to Kaziah

Portraits of Heroes

As a way to thank those American servicemen and women who have given the ultimate sacrifice, Kaziah paints, for the immediate family, an original oil on canvas portrait (free of charge) of their fallen loved one. In this small way, she can say thank you to the many who have given their all in the cause of freedom.

The following video is just incredible, as it shows Kaziah at work, her talent and spirit just incredible.

Honestly, no one really cares about their mental health

I am ashamed to see our government be so cavalier about the mental health of our soldiers. Not only are they cavalier, but it’s just been shown that they are liars as well. I have worked with and evaluated those with depression and possible suicidal ideation. It is quite a serious task and I am never able to forget those souls who do manage to take their lives.

It is simply unconscionable that these folks in our government continue to get away with such blatant disregard for human life. It is embarrassing that Dr. Ira Katz, a man with Ph.D. and M.D. degrees who has been placed in a position that oversees all mental health services for the VA, is playing games with the lives of thousands.

Senate VA Committee Chairman Daniel Akaka and Sen. Patty Murray called for the resignation of Dr. Ira Katz, the VA’s top official for mental health, who had the audacity to provide inaccurate information on new suicide statistics to CBS.

There is currently an epidemic in suicide that the VA has been concealing. Just look for yourself at the incriminating emails that attest to 1000 suicide attempts being made every month.

Rather than there being fewer than 800 suicide attempts a year, as stated by Dr. Katz, the number is more like 12,000 a year. And, now one day after calling for the resignation of VA’s top health official, Senator Murray is correctly questioning a 2nd-ranking VA official on why the true needs of veterans are being hidden from Congress.

Remembering war dogs, adopting retired military dogs & more

lemish.jpgA couple of months ago, I heard from Mike Lemish, a fellow Golden lover as you can see, his pictured with his guy Sedona. Mike is the official Historian for the Vietnam Dog Handler Association (VDHA).
viet.jpg

The VDHA was organized in 1993 by a group of six veteran war dog handlers that served during the Vietnam Conflict. One of their original goals was to never give up the search to re-unite veteran war dog handlers and honor the memory of their war dog partners. As a result, the group has grown from six to almost 3000 members.

war.jpgMike is the author of the seminal war dog book, “War Dogs: A History of Loyalty and Heroism“. This book was originally published in 1996 and tells the history of the U.S. K-9 Corps. Now in paperback, War Dogs provides an eye-opening look at unsung canine heroes from World War I to the present. Terriers, shepherds, beagles, collies, huskies, and Dobermans are only a few of the breeds that have pulled sleds, searched caves and bunkers, and even parachuted into combat. Mike has collected true stories and rare photos that reflect the strong bonds that have formed between war dogs and their masters as they worked together in dangerous situations.

Mike is finishing up my second book with the working title “Forever Forward: K-9 Operations in Vietnam 1960-1972“. This is not just about Vietnam but also tells about the continuing effort to educate the public about military working dogs so that they receive proper recognition. Although not a military dog handler, he is proud to be part of the group that persuaded the government to enact a law to allow citizens to adopt retired military dogs (not done since the close of WWII).

Mike has just shared a wonderful new website with me: www.militaryworkingdogadoptions.com . This site will aid in placing many of these wonderful dogs into good homes to have the retirement they so richly deserve!

ther.jpg

This letter comes from Debbie Kandoll (site creator) pictured above with Military Working Dog (Ret.) Benny B163.

As many of you already know, Mike and I adopted a retired Military Working Dog (MWD) in January 2008. From the process, I discovered that the “How To’s” of MWD were not clear, and as a result some retiring MWDs fall through the cracks and are euthanized simply because their time for placement has run out.

I passionately wanted to do SOMETHING to HELP, and since I can’t adopt them ALL, this website to disseminate information is the next best thing! Please check out my new Military Working Dog Adoptions website, and forward it to anyone you think would have an interest in a MWD Adoption.

Visit the site to learn more and do go learn about Benny’s story, and how at age 10, he has already started out on a second career as a Therapy Dog.

Grieving family fetches son’s dogs from Iraq

peter540.jpg
Sgt. Peter Neesley holding puppy Boris

We learned about this story from author, Greg Mitchell, who has been pursuing stories about non-combat American deaths in Iraq. Greg is the esteemed editor of Editor & Publisher, the journal of the newspaper business which has won several major awards for its coverage of Iraq and the media. He has written eight books, his latest just published today: So Wrong for So Long: How the Press, the Pundits and the President Failed on Iraq.

books.jpgIt is often said that a free press is the watchdog of democracy, insuring that the conduct of our leaders is examined with a critical eye. This makes Greg Mitchell the watchdog of watchdogs, his weekly column “Pressing Issues” over the past five years intensely scrutinizing the coverage of the Iraq war, the media’s views of the credibility of the Bush Administration, and such related topics as 9/11, the war in Afghanistan, and the CIA Leak Case.

Actually, back in 2003, Mitchell was one of the few mainstream journalists to question the grounds for war, this book providing a unique history of the conflict from the hyped WMD stories to the “surge.” It is a must-have book for anyone concerned with how we got into Iraq and why we can’t seem to get out.

kidss.jpg
This photo shows Neesley on a visit to his nephew’s 4th grade class in Grosse Pointe Farms, the school’s newsletter, describing it this way: “Sergeant Peter Neesley, uncle of Patrick D., visited Richard Elementary while home on leave from Iraq. Sgt. Neesley led the school in the Pledge of Allegiance and visited several classrooms answering questions from our inquisitive students. Thanks for spending valuable time with us Sgt. Neesley and don’t forget to write and keep in touch. Thanks to all the men and women in the armed forces. We are so proud of you!”

According to Greg, this is how the discovery began.

Peter Neesley died in his sleep on Christmas Day in Iraq last December but the dogs he rescued there live on, miraculously, back at his home in the USA. I’m proud to say that I had at least a tiny something to do with it. I wrote about Sgt. Neesley’s passing right after Christmas, both at Editor & Publisher (which I edit) and on my blog, when few knew about it. I also printed a photo of him taken recently with a group of kids at his old elementary school. The outpouring of response I received from friends (near his Michigan home and scattered) and family was incredible. Through their postings, many were able to get in touch with each other. He was clearly quite a young man, someone who hailed from a very well-off area who had a lot of other choices in life but joined the military.

But the story didn’t end there. It turned out that all of these people, and more, soon learned, from my writings or elsewhere, that Peter, 28, had saved and cared for a couple of dogs over in Iraq, and they were now in peril. So his family and friends, with the help of media and local groups, launched a campaign to rescue them, again, and bring them to the U.S.

dh.jpgAn AP story revealed: “In e-mails and phone calls from Iraq, Neesley talked about how he came across Mama, a black Labrador mix, and Boris, her white and brown spotted puppy, while on patrol in their Baghdad neighborhood. One of Mama’s puppies was later killed by a car, so Neesley and his friends built a doghouse to shelter the animals. Photographs show Neesley feeding the dogs and kneeling next to the red-and-white doghouse and Boris walking along the cracked sidewalks of Baghdad.”

iraqdogs540.jpg

After he died, “Still grieving, the family decided that they would honor Neesley’s wishes and try to bring the dogs home to Michigan. ‘To have something that they can hold and touch and care for that Peter cared about, that’s the whole thing,” said Julie Dean, his aunt.”

After four weeks of work, and the help of the Iraqi Society for Animals, the dogs recently arrived in the U.S.

Carey Neesley said her brother decided to re-enlist in the Army in 2005 after learning that one of his friends was killed in Iraq, leaving behind a wife and two children. Protecting others was part of his life, she said. “He didn’t want another young man who had a wife and kids at home to die,” she said. “He’s always had such a strong sense of family and protecting those who can’t protect themselves. Caring for a mother and her stray puppy, why would you ever think to do anything else?”

My own small role concluded when the well-known Banfield Pet Hospital office in Portland, Ore., contacted me saying they wanted to offer free lifetime care to the two dogs, at one of their local hospitals in Michigan, and asking me to put them in touch with the family. I contacted Julie Dean and last week the offer was accepted and announced. Peter, at least, would be happy about this.

ira.jpgYou can also hear a 4 minute NPR “All Things Considered” Feb 19th report with Sgt. Peter Neesley’s sister, Carey. In this AP photo by Paul Sancya, Patrick Neesley is petting Boris as his mom, Carey, holds him after arriving in Grosse Pointe Farms, MI, from Iraq. She has indicated that the dogs are slowly adjusting to their new environment.

Neesley says both Mama and Boris are “very sweet and very mild-mannered dogs,” but Mama is used to having to protect her pup, as well as her food and territory. “So we’re just kind of trying to ease her into the fact that she’s safe and sound here, and nobody’s going to hurt them,” Neesley says.

The dogs also have to adjust to the Michigan winter. “They’re not used to the cold and especially not the snow,” Neesley says. “I have to carry the puppy out in the snow; he will not go. He goes to the bathroom right away and wants right back in the house.

“I think they’ll adjust. You know, right now, their coats are very thin because of the weather in Baghdad. And I think, you know, [once] their coats get a little bit warmer and they get used to it, they’ll be OK, but I think right now it’s a shock.”

Neesley says the family is thankful for all the help they got with the dogs. “They’re tremendous dogs, and we are so fortunate to have them and so grateful to everyone who played a part, down to the soldiers who were caring for them on the base, you know, making sure they were safe and fed until we could get them,” she says.

The family still keeps in contact with those soldiers, Neesley says. “There are two in particular … who were very concerned about the dogs’ welfare, and were very close to Peter, and we exchange e-mails,” she says. “I think part of what we’ve learned from all of this is that there are so many good, kind people in this world. There really are.”

The REAL McCain

vv.jpg

VoteVets.org Action Fund is a pro-military organization founded by Veterans of the war in Iraq and Afghanistan to be the voice of the 21st century patriot. Their mission is to ensure that today’s soldiers have the necessary resources to successfully complete their missions abroad and the support they deserve when they come home.They are committed to winning the war on terror and preserving the strength of our military. The mission of VoteVets.org Political Action Committee is to elect Veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan to public office; hold public officials accountable for their words and actions that impact America’s 21st century service members; and fully support our men and women in uniform.

A very smart woman indeed . . .

Captain Rose Forrest began her military career in the Pennsylvania Army National Guard in 1999, as a Private First Class serving as a legal specialist for the 728th Main Support Battalion. She was later commissioned as a quartermaster officer and served for one year as a platoon leader in a general supply platoon for the 728th MSB. Following this assignment, Rose served as a platoon leader in a Class 3/5 platoon for three years in the 628th Division Aviation Support Battalion at Ft. Indian Gap, Pennsylvania.

In 2004, she was mobilized with the 228th Forward Support Battalion at Camp Shelby, Mississippi as the personnel officer. She then transferred to the 2nd Brigade, 28th Infantry Division to serve as the Mortuary Affairs Officer and manage the Brigade Lioness program for a twelve month deployment to Ramadi, Iraq. Upon returning from the deployment, Rose transferred to the Maryland Army National Guard and served as the Materials Management Officer with the 1297th Combat Sustainment Support Battalion. In November 2007, she assumed command of the Headquarters Company, 1297th CSSB.

Rose was a Legislative Director for Senator Rob Garagiola, Chairman of the Maryland General Assembly Veteran’s Caucus, from 2003-2005, and a pre-school teacher from 2001 to 2003. She is also admitted to the Maryland Bar.

Rose was born in Hartford, Connecticut and graduated from Pennsylvania State University in 2001 with a BA in Journalism. She graduated from the University of Baltimore School of Law in 2006 with a Jurist Doctorate.

Captain Forrest resides in Pasadena, Maryland, and is married to Stephen T. Podwojski. They have one son, Andrew Forrest Podwojski.

BTW, just in case you were wondering . . . . .

Meet Golden Retriever O’Malley

omalley.jpgMeet sweet O’Malley. He is training to be member of PAL (People Animals Love). The group is one of the hundreds in our foundation’s national listing of animal-assisted therapy groups.

His story has a very special beginning, as it starts with his dad, who in January of 2005 was an infantry company commander serving in Mosul, Iraq. He was leading a convoy of Humvees when his vehicle was struck by an IED hidden behind a guard rail alongside the road.

Click here to learn about his rehab and how his own first hand experience with the therapeutic power of a loyal dog led him to want to train his own dog to help others.

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