There’s so much sadness around, and so many places where service providers regularly ask themselves how they can better market their programs to those who need them.
I’m not a clearinghouse for those who need services, and neither am I in the position of giving advice to those whose job it is to market their organizations. I just want to tell you about an Iraq War veteran, J.C., whom I interviewed recently. J.C. is 100 percent disabled with PTSD. We met at Edison State Community College in Piqua on a recent Saturday morning.
You may believe that J.C.’s ways of addressing his issues won’t work for you, and I’m the first one to admit that every case is different. I am also the first one to say that hand wringing or sitting on a pity pot and moaning is not helpful.
J.C. had a life-changing experience when he was caught in a cross fire in Iraq in 2004. You don’t need to hear about the details as that will put you in a position to judge whether his trauma was more or less serious than your own or that of someone you know.
I just want to tell you about J.C., who maintains, “If it wasn’t for Buddy and the VA, I’d be dead right now, dead, suicide.”
Buddy is a rescue dog and J.C. says, “He rescued me, and I rescued him right back.” Does this sound familiar?
This yellow Lab-collie mix spoke to J.C. when he was searching for a dog at an animal shelter in December of 2006, “I’m the one. Take me home with you.”
By April of 2012, Buddy needed surgery for hip dysplasia in his right hip and knee surgery in May of that year. In 2014, Buddy went under the knife again for his left hip. Total cost of surgeries: $11,000.
With limited mobility and needing to lose weight (Buddy began physical therapy at 107 pounds and should weigh 70 to 80 pounds), Buddy could no longer navigate the jump to get into J.C.’s truck, so he had to buy a car ($20,000). J.C. maintains that Buddy doesn’t like the car because he liked being able to look out from his position riding shotgun in the truck, but J.C. likes spending less for gas.
In March of 2013, a Jack Russell terrier-beagle mix, Ms. Wiggles, appeared at J.C.’s door, begging to be rescued from who knows what. He welcomed her into his home, but there was just one problem: Initially, Buddy didn’t like Ms. Wiggles and kept giving J.C. a “get rid of her” look.
Once Buddy realized that Ms. Wiggles was there to stay, he began to accommodate her. J.C. learned that Ms. Wiggles could get him to do what Buddy’s therapist, Jean, (yes, dogs have therapists) wanted him to do: get out, run, exercise, get off his lazy butt and move. J.C. maintains that Buddy is about 95 percent now, and he knows the pooch will never be 100 percent, just as he never will be.
In addition to being J.C.’s constant companion, Buddy is the mascot for a weekly support group at the Dayton VA. Each Thursday morning, J.C. and Buddy head to Dayton, where 10 to 14 veterans who have been diagnosed with PTSD meet. Since J.C. has been attending this support group, only one veteran in the group has killed himself (22 veterans per day on average take their own lives).
Veterans lead the discussion, share phone numbers with each other, and know that they can ask for support while the group is in session or at any time, 24/7. What group members say is held in strictest confidence, and a veteran who is having a difficult time need only say, “I need to have the floor.” And there is no time limit as the group helps that veteran.
J.C. says that he still has problems with sleep deprivation and night terrors, but Buddy knows when he is anxious or depressed and does a crazy little dance with his blonde mane flying in all directions. In return, Buddy gets a big hug.
In my interview of J.C. and Buddy, I learned that not only is Buddy forthcoming when he tires of talk and wants to go outside to sniff around the college campus, but J.C. is outspoken as well: “I used to keep my opinions to myself. Now I don’t give a s*** what I say. I’ll tell you what I think.”
Additionally, there’s still a bit of jealousy with the two dogs because at birthday time the birthday boy or girl gets a whole steak, while J.C. and the other must share a steak.
In conclusion, we rescue each other; we care for each other. And at times, there is a dog — or two — in the mix.
Vivian Blevins is a consultant for the Training Solutions Group Inc. who teaches courses in writing and literature for major telecom company employees. Reach her at (937) 778-3815 or firstname.lastname@example.org.