Where did you serve and what did you do?
I’m a retired Army Nurse and more recently retired from the VA. For the first half of my career, I was a QM (Supply Officer), which is what I did in Desert Shield/Storm. After nursing school I transferred to Nurse Corps for the second half of my career. My specialty is psych/mental health and geriatrics/dementia.
Tell us how your dog is helping you continue #StillServing in your community.
The year I retired (2005), I got my first service dog whose name was Riley. I would take him to work with me on my inpatient psych unit where he would moonlight as a therapy dog for my patients. I also took him to the nursing home unit for the older vets. I had started a group with a trainer friend called Battle Buddies, and all of us had service dogs that also did therapy work in the hospital. Riley passed away in 2014 and I was not able to have another dog for the last 7 years due to work environment and logistics. Fortunately, my office was just across the building where Paws for Purple Hearts was located on past and I got to work closely with a golden named Webb who was our Facility Dog for our nursing home on post.
Webb became my indirect “service dog” when I had him. I became a puppy sitter and his human let me take him home whenever I wanted and let me keep him with me all day at work when he was there. When I retired from the VA a couple years ago and moved to NM, I started looking for another one and just this Feb was able to adopt Shadow from a dear friend whose husband with PTSD from Nam developed dementia and was in a facility and could not have Shadow anymore. I brought him home with me from CA and he has been a Blessing ever since.
I’m a bit unconventional when he is out with me- I allow him to socialize with people so he is comfortable and it helps me be social and calm around people. When I am at my VA appointments, I let him say hi to other vets there, kind of what I was doing before with Riley. When I take him other places with me, including trips, I let people who ask give him love, especially kids!
Why do you do it?
My heart is animals, and especially dogs. I have been studying AAT and service dogs since I was a nursing student back in the early 90s. As a psych nurse and a therapist working with veterans, I have seen for at least 3 decades what a dog can do for someone who otherwise would not be able to communicate or trust in a world where people are more conditional and judgmental in our relationships with them. I do it for me because I want to be with people and not feel like I have to get anxious or defensive. I do it for others to let them know the wonders of having a service dog. I do it because it is in my heart to do it.