Very Merry Christmas

It’s been a week since I sat down to write about Tank and I. To tell you the truth it’s been going so great with him I haven’t felt the need to say anything. I’ve been busy running around town buying christmas presents and getting the house ready for family to come over for christmas. December is always a chaotic month.

I’m really amazed at how well Tank and I have bonded. We’re in sync everywhere we go. He obeys my cues and watched my back when I need him. I’ve noticed that I’m not so busy being alert about my surroundings when I have him with me, which helps me stay calm and more focused on what I need to get done.

Our public access training with Lindsay has been going exceptionally well. Lindsay gives us  a lot of praise each day we train. She said we’re probably the easiest to work with and we’re excelling well beyond what is normal for the program. We’ve  been training at Target and the mall,  but I take him other places  because I hate the way I feel when he’s not with me.

The only thing that I worry about him is how protective he gets when people walk up on us suddenly, he starts barking at them and it takes me awhile to get him to calm down. He does it inside the car too, with every person that walks by the car when we’re parked. I’ve talked to Lindsay about it and she’s given me a few things to try. She said he just might be overwhelmed  and we might just be moving too fast for him, so I need to keep him home when it’s not necessary to bring him out.

Other than that life is pretty great. I have hope that I can get that side of Tank under control so we can take the certification test soon because I want to start promoting my book more and doing speeches so I’m going to need him, he’ll pull through. He’s getting along better with my wife and daughter too. They told me that Tank is part of the family know and that they love him just as much as me. I believe them, the mood in our house has changed since we got him. He keeps me in a stable mood which makes the girls happier, plus they get the added bonus of petting and playing with him too.

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Christmas is a time for Love, Peace, and family. It’s been well over a decade since I celebrated a christmas where I’ve truly been content with life. This christmas is special to me in so many ways it’s overwhelming sometimes. Wow, even writing it seems weird. I had darkness trapped inside of me for so long, it doesn’t feel normal to be happy or actually feel all. But now I’m feeling again and it makes my outlook on life better than ever. Tank was the key to helping me feel again, I love him for it.

 

 

Winter Blues

This past Friday was a busy day. I had appointments all day which forced me to leave Tank in his crate most of the day. I know he hates it so much, overtime I try putting him in his crate he tries to run away. I have to bribe him by sticking treats inside before he unwillingly decides to go in, lowering his head walking slowly towards the treats as I close the door behind him.

I had to drive forty minutes to the VA hospital to see my doctor so he could possibly change my sleeping medications because my nightmares and night sweats have been getting worse. It always takes forever to get to the hospital and back home. After three hours I was back home in time to let Tank out to pee. I pet him for a while before I had to leave again to go grocery shopping.

When I got back home and let Tank out the second time he was jumping all over me, overexcited about getting out of his crate. It had started to snow when I brought him out to go pee again. He rode with me to pick Aleah up from school. I’m proud of how well behaved he acts in the car at the school now. He has stopped whimpering while we sit in the car. He usually only barks and growls when we first arrive, then he lays down after I tell him to stop. He is such a smart dog because he picks up on cues and remembers his training.

Aleah is always so happy to see Tank when she opens the car door. Her face lights up instantly once they meet eyes. She quickly buckles up when she gets in and immediately starts petting his head. He likes it a lot and he’s pretty tame with her on the way back home.

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How Tank chooses to sleep after a long belly rub.

 

We ended up getting six inches of snow overnight with the temperature down to negative twelve below zero with a windchill of negative thirty. So as a family we decided to stay inside in our PJ’s all day Saturday and relax. I received Tanks booties early that morning which made me happy because know I don’t have to hear him holler out in pain from his paws freezing on the snow. I can tell he wants to walk around the neighborhood when I take him outside to pee, but it was just too cold to walk.

Sunday was thirty below zero, even a worse day to walk. I put Tank in his crate when I went to church in the morning. It was so cold, I was happy to get back home to get warm. I think the winter is getting to him. He seems depressed that he can’t stay outside, I see him staring out the window sulking over the damn winter while I’m sitting in the living room. he hates it when we go outside just to pee. He tries to walk down the driveway to start a walk but I always just go back inside. We walk plenty when its warm out. Last year I was up to eight miles a day, so he’ll get his fill this spring when we start back up. I guess humans and dogs have the same emotions about being stuck inside on long winter days. Only a few more weeks of cold before spring, seems so long away.

 

It’s Magic!

This week has been really eventful. It feels like I’m constantly on the move between training Tank, going to appointments , and keeping my family happy with a clean house and good wholesome meals. I’ve been pushed out of my comfort zone and I can feel the effects. My anxiety is through the roof, the pain in my back is damn near intolerable and the nightmares won’t stop. I have to keep pushing through my comfort zone in order to learn how to deal with my PTSD because I’m tired of letting it affect everything in my life.

Tank and I had our first public training session last Tuesday and I’m excited to say we did better than I anticipated. We met Lindsay and Josh at a nearby Walgreens. It was ten below outside with a wind chill of negative twenty, so it was cold to say the least when Tank and I jumped out of the car and ran over to a bank of snow to pee. After a few seconds of being on the concrete,Tank started hollering out every step he took limping on his paw. I rushed him inside as quick as possible and stood around the corner of the entrance away from the doors. He stopped whimpering when he started warming up.

Lindsay had me walk through the store at a slow pace taking everything in as we saw it while she watched. Tank did excellent following my cues to “leave it” or “let’s go” when I wanted to move. He was also really calm which kept me calm. I felt better in that moment out in public with Tank than anytime by myself since coming home from Iraq.

Not much happened on Wednesday. I stayed inside the house with Tank to keep from the bitter cold. I woke up tired as ever, like I never fell asleep. I’m glad Tank slept through the night though. I hate having to go out in the freezing cold in my PJ’s, especially in the middle of sleep.

I’ve been dreaming a lot these past few months. Sometimes nightmares, but usually it’s a weird story line like I’m leading a school group on a field trip or fighting other people with magical powers. My mind is always busy thinking whether I’m awake or sleep and it is draining.

I’ve noticed that Tank has dreams too. Right before I go to bed he usually sleeping with his nose twitching and sniffing as his paws jerked fast, like he’s prancing on the ground. Sometimes he growls or moans. I wonder what he dreams about sometimes. I make sure to lay my hand on him gently, it usually gets him to calm down without waking him up.

Patti from Project Delta text me that night to let me know she received Tanks working vest and I’d get it on Thursday for our public training at Lowes. That text made me happy because yay! Tank gets to start rolling with me everywhere I go, but at the same time I’m on the edge because there will be a lot more people, blind corners and noises than in Walgreens, so I thought I couldn’t handle it.

After taking a step out of my comfort zone, Tank and I had an experience at Lowes that wasn’t joyful or disappointing. Tank got his black vest with ” Service dog in training!” and ” Do Not Pet” patches on it. It fit him well and he looks super official in it.  I was nervous at first being in a huge store with tons of people and loud sounds, all huge triggers for me.

Tank was real calm and collected when we first went in. He stayed by my side without yanking on the leash to sniff stuff. I liked the fact that he looked down every isle when walking past. It took some of the burden and fear away from me, but I still felt the need to be aware . My anxiety went through the roof a couple of minutes into the store because there was a guy driving around on a floor cleaner and people kept walking suddenly around corners in front of us. Tank put some distance between us and them. I had to stop for a minute to recollect myself. Tank placed his forehead on my leg with a good amount of pressure. It felt like he knew I was distressed. I reached down and started petting him until my anxiety subsided.

When I was ready I tried giving Tank the cue to walk, but he wouldn’t listen. Josh said it was because he was telling me that I wasn’t ok. It took a few minutes of grounding myself before Tank sat next to me on his own, looking up at me ready to listen. The rest of the time was spent walking up and down isles. Josh showed me how to use clutter in the isles to my advantage to keep distance between us and people.

We stopped in an aisle to take a break when I noticed that before Tank sat next to me, he sniffed around and mad sure no one else was around. It’s nice to know that this stuff comes naturally to him. I feel like my anxiety doesn’t  peak as much when he has my back. I noticed that he didn’t pay any attention to Josh’s dog the whole time we were in the store, he just did his job. Usually he’s whimpering or barking at her when their in the same room.

I was disappointed that we didn’t get to keep the vest today. Josh said we needed more practice in public before we go out on our own. I hate the fact that we have to wait. Every time I have to leave him at home I notice a change inside of me. I think dark things like hurting people or afraid something is going to happen to me. It makes me angry and highly anxious all the time. img_0283I’m not in such a dark place when I have Tank with me. It’s like there is a dark side of me that takes control of my emotions when I’m on my own and I feel drained by the time I get home.

I head straight for Tank as soon as I walk through the door to see his excitement to see me when I let him out of his crate. After playing with him and giving him a good scratching, I felt a little bit lighter and happier inside. It’s like magic!

 

 

 

 

A Strong Bond

Not much has happened these past few days. The sleep study I went in for sucked so bad. At 830 that night they hooked me up to a wrist monitor with a heart lead and stuck me in a room with four other guys to sleep the night; two things that made me uncomfortable to start the night out. Plus, I had to sleep on a super hard hospital bed with I knew would irritate my back. I felt like my sleep was broken throughout the night because I kept waking up to my back crying out to me in pain with sweat pouring off my head. I don’t even know how I got any sleep that night. By the morning my back was stiff and sore.img_0271

At my appointment the next morning my doctor told me I tested negative for sleep apnea, but they want me back to check for restless feet syndrome to see if that is what causes me to wake up. The whole test made me upset. I woke up more during the night from other people making noise. I still had nightmares too, just like every night. The doctor said I got six and a half hours of sleep throughout the night and that was spot on with the recommended amount for a 33 year old.

Why am I so tired every day like I didn’t rest at all?I’m really getting sick of nodding off several times a day because I feel like I get no sleep. I wish someone could tell me something because I don’t feel safe driving anymore.

I felt so run down and hungry after the appointment that I thought I’d better treat myself to a good breakfast, so I stopped to eat at The Original Pancake House. The Banana praline crepes were so amazing; I can still taste the caramel on my tongue.

I drove over to my dog trainer Lindsay’s house to pick up Tank. As soon as I walked through the door he was all over me panting, rubbing his furry body across my legs, jumping up licking my face. The anger and frustration I was having for the VA slowly disappeared the more we interacted. It was just a distant thought by the time I was leaving with him. I guess we both missed each other. I feel a strong bond with Tank, like he is apart of me in some way.img_0270

It got bitter cold this weekend. It snowed from Saturday into Sunday afternoon. We all stayed inside most of the weekend playing games and watching television. I don’t think Tank likes to be inside all day, he kept coming over to me whimpering and looking outside.

After going outside with him a few times I think he realized that being outside during the winter in Minnesota is highly overrated, especially when there is a snow storm. I felt bad for him when he started limping on his paw after being outside for a minute. On our way back inside he started yelping out when he stepped down. I bet his paws were freezing, so I ordered him a pair of booties. I hope I get them soon so he doesn’t have to be in pain when relieving himself in the snow. I also ordered a bunch of different rawhide chews that I think he may like. I spoil him way too much, but I feel like it’s a mutual respect thing. He watches my back and helps take away some of my anxiety, I give him all the treats he likes.

Lindsay, Patti and Len from Project Delta came over tonight to check in with our family and also so Aleah and my wife could introduce themselves to Tank and finally get to pet him. They all were nervous at the start of it, especially Tank kept looking at me with his tail wagging swiftly across the ground to see if it was okay that they were petting him. He started calming down as soon as they both started giving him treats.

Aleah was super happy to finally get to pet him. Jessica was glowing with joy too. She doesn’t say it much, but I know she loves him. I’m glad they finally get to show him affection. I can tell Tank is in a better mood since he doesn’t have to walk around with the muzzle on anymore. He gets his vest in a few days and then we dive into public training, I can’t wait

Noticing a Change Within

I’m having good days more often than usual. I’m sleeping better because I’ve let Tank sleep outside of his crate at the foot of our bed. I really believe he doesn’t like to be in his crate when I’m in the same room so he can sleep outside of it as long as he’s sleeping all night.

Training went well today. Tank is making strides in his progress. He is showing me everyday how smart he is by memorizing cues I give him within a day. The only problem I can see that he has is with other dogs being in the same room with us. Josh’s service dog was in the room with us today and Tank wouldn’t stop growling at her and he barks at every person that passes by outside. I think he’s easily excited because he doesn’t see other people and animals much. We’re starting public training with in our next session so hopefully he will start learning to keep calm in those situations.

I gave Tank a break from his muzzle today when we were in the house alone. He still walked with me wherever I moved. He’s a really good dog, I think he is ready to start going out in public with me. I found that the only rawhide he likes to chew on has to have some type of meat flavor on it or he won’t chew it. I bought peanut flavored rawhides and Tank literally just licked the bone a few times then pushes it aside. I’m glad I only bought a pack of two so throwing them away doesn’t seem too wasteful. I gave him a beef and chicken flavor rawhide and he chewed it up in less than an hour. He is such a picky eater.

I have a sleep study scheduled for tonight at the VA hospital to test for sleep apnea because I’ve had trouble sleeping lately. The nightmares and night sweats have gotten so bad I feel like I’m not sleeping at all at night. Lindsay came to take Tank for the night. I spent an hour petting him and giving him lots of love before he left.

Driving to the VA was a challenge as always. I started having an anxiety attack halfway there which pissed me off. I felt like I was high because everything I looked at was in a haze. I tried grounding myself with breathing techniques , but I found it hard to even breath. I met with my psychiatrist when I first arrived at the hospital. I let him know I stopped smoking weed a few months ago because it was getting too expensive. Now that I haven’t smoked my PTSD symptoms have increased. He increased my medications to help compensate for what the marijuana was helping with.

I drove over to the Mall of America for dinner after that appointment. I tried a new sushi restaurant and it was pretty good. I drank sake in order to calm my nerves. I felt so different without Tank, sort of feels like being in a gunfight without a gun, super uncomfortable. I’ve noticed how bad I get without him which makes me anxious to get his vest so he can go everywhere with me.

img_0277Lindsay sent me a couple of pictures with Tank and her two labs. She said he was doing excellent and he was getting along with everyone. I bet he was excited to play with other dogs for a chance. He’s been stuck with me for the past month not receiving any attention from anyone.

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Getting in sync

Tank woke us up right after midnight panting and licking himself obsessively in his crate while his stomach savagely growled. For some reason I feel like Tank hates being in his crate at night. He has started ignoring me when I tell him to get, it takes me a good 5 minutes and treat bribes to get him to walk in with his head hanging low. I gave Lindsay a call but she didn’t pick up, so I let Tank out to relieve himself then let him sleep outside of his cage at the foot of our bed. He went to sleep right away. We got the best sleep since the first day we got Tank. Lindsay gave me a call in the morning and told me to do pretty much what I did.

I didn’t have to do much today. I had to meet with a hearing officer at the Hennepin county court office this afternoon about a speeding ticket I received back in October. In order to keep the ticket off my record I have to pay a $325 fine…JEEZ. I think I got away with more than I should have though. I have this thing with driving alone on a highway, it makes me hyper-aware of everything that I see on the road, sometimes giving me flashbacks if I see a box or dead deer on the side of the road. I can’t count how many times I’ve been in a convoy at night speeding on a highway towards Bagdad when we’d have to stop and call the bomb squad out to check for IED’s that are hidden underneath stuff. I was going 92 when the cop pulled me over. I’m blessed that he knocked it down to a 76 in a 65 MPH zone, so $325 isn’t too bad.

Two hours went by before I got back home. When I let Tank out of his crate he was overjoyed as usual, jetting around the house heavily panting. He ran in between my legs at least 10 times rubbing his head against me. I love him. He makes me feel good every time I see him. Lately, the anxiety that builds up inside of me while away during the day seems to be washed away when I spend time with him. I spent the rest of the day watching T.V. and rubbing tanks belly.

When I put Tank in his crate so I could pick Aleah up from school, he started whimpering. I spoke with Lindsay about what I should do and she said if he’s fed and has relieved himself then he’s just doing it to see if I let him out. It’s hard but I’ve almost gotten used to ignoring him, even though it sounds like a crying baby I need to tend to.img_0266Patti, the founder of Project Delta, text me a picture of the badges that will go on Tanks vest. I can’t wait to see it on him, then it’ll be official. Lindsay also text me to let me know next monday her and Patti will be over to finally let Aleah and my wife to interact with Tank. Aleah is super excited, Jessica is too but she doesn’t want to show it. I know it’s been hard for the both of them to not interact with Tank this past month. I’m really proud of them for sticking this out with me and I can’t wait to see them play together.

A Different Side

I’ve felt the best mentally than I have in a long time. Aleah had another day off of school today. We hung out playing games this morning and then I dropped her off at her friends house before I went to my chiropractor appointment. I brought Tank with me, but while I was driving Tank started whimpering and barking loudly at dogs being walked outside and he wouldn’t stop when told to.

I’m seeing a different side of Tank lately, he barks way too much at people. I can’t control him when he gets like that. I decided to bring him back home before my appointment because I didn’t think he had enough training to sit in a room with me until the end of my appointment. Whenever he gets around other people and animals, he gets super excited and tries to run up to get their attention; or, he just want to warn me that new people are around, IDK. I’m going to have to remember to talk with my trainer Lindsay about how to calm him down so he doesn’t bark and whimper when he sees other animals. I know that we don’t get out of the house much, he isn’t around anyone new so that may be why he’s always excited.

I love Tank’s bark. Its low, loud and sounds so much like a hound. He is part doberman and hound dog. I like the fact that I have him as a tool to alert me to new surroundings. I feel like he’ll always warn me when somethings jumps off. I’ve started going to bed at 11 pm to let Tank out to piss. He usually goes, but at 1 in the morning , he wakes my wife and I up with his panting and licking. When he starts to whimper I take him out again and he goes. After that he sleeps for the rest of the night. I wish he slept the whole night so I don’t get as much broken sleep. Other than that, Tank has been the perfect addition to our household.dc7d35ec-ac80-46fc-bd72-36ff2c9cc93d

Happy Dog, Happy Life

I woke early this morning by Tank obsessively licking himself as though he was giving himself a morning bath. I was about to go back to sleep when I heard his stomach growling, as if he hadn’t been fed for days. It’s been a few weeks since I heard his stomach this upset. When I first brought him home his stomach was upset every morning, it was literally screaming at me. My trainer, Lindsay, said it was the stress of being in a new home and that hopefully it will stop in time. I tried introducing new food to him yesterday by replacing a quarter cup of his food with new kibble for his feedings. I guess his stomach is ultra sensitive. I have to find the right food that he can easily digest. As soon as he ate this morning the growling stopped. I could tell that he was relieved because he went and curled back up into bed.

My Dad and Mom came into town yesterday to buy gifts for us kids and grandkids. He comes up every year around this time just to spend some time with us before going back home to Texas. Tank spent a lot of time in his crate this weekend. I came home every three hours to let him relieve himself and play around. Every time I let him out he was overjoyed; running in circles, jumping up on his hind legs to give me a hug and kiss hello. Makes me happy to know he loves being with me. It doesn’t matter how long I leave him in his crate, 20 minutes or 3 hours, he is always happy to see me. All of the anxiety that I had building up inside seems to wash away when I see him jumping around with a smile on.

The only time I had him in his crate was when we went to church on Sunday. When I got back from service I took him outside to relieve himself. When I sat down to rest I noticed Tank staring at me. He walked up and tapped my leg with his paw and stared  at his food bowl then looked deep into my eyes. I’ve noticed that he doesn’t leave me alone if he’s hungry. He’s pretty good at letting me know when to feed him. I gave him the rest of the kibble he didn’t eat in the morning. He usually does it at night which I don’t mind. I’m going to ask Lindsay if there are other foods I can give him to eat that won’t mess with his stomach.

I spent a lot of time petting Tank this weekend. He always rolls over for me to rub his belly when I walk up to him. He is such a belly slut.94f7dabd-f849-42fd-aab0-73980eecc308

Changes

I’ve been with Tank for just over three weeks now. I feel like our bond is growing stronger everyday. He is a very intelligent dog, picking up on new commands in less than two days. We had our training yesterday where Lindsay gave us two new Cues: Down and Stay. I started out having to hold a treat in front of his face while he sat, bringing it to the floor three times saying, “Down” before he laid down. Now, I just have to say down once and he does it. We’re working on stay. Tank stays where I sit him until he decides to sniff around the room when I walk away. He likes to grab Aleah or my wife’s attention to pet him. He’ll get it down soon enough, I have faith in him.

I’ve started noticing how my emotions are when I’m around Tank versus when I’m not. It’s like when he’s sitting at my side letting me pet him, my head feels normal, like a huge weight just lifts off. It helps with my anxiety and anger when I’m out in public. I’ve also noticed I’m not short tempered with my family and I’m able to talk to them without wanting to go off and be by myself. As soon as I leave the house it feels like a dark cloud comes rushing back into my head. Driving and being out in public alone or with my family makes me high strung and extremely angry. I don’t try to be, I hate it, but as soon as I drive out on the road I feel like smashing into every car that can’t drive. I can’t wait until I can bring Tank wherever I go to keep me calmer.img_0196

I can certainly say that I can tell a deference within myself when I have Tank with me and when he’s not. I was so used to being stressed out all the time with high anxiety; thinking bad thoughts about everyone and everything. I can’t actually remember a time before now that I was able to stay calm on my own. Now that I have Tank to keep me calm when I’m stressed, I feel mentally and physically ill when I have to go into public alone because of the anger and rage that rushes back inside of me. I hate it. I know that’s not the person  I grew up being. I don’t feel comfortable in it anymore.

Habits And Similarities

I woke up exhausted today. Felt like I hadn’t slept all night, dreamt that I was back in the military training for war.It felt too real, sometimes I can’t recognize the difference between sleeping and being awake.  Aleah had school off today, I felt bad that I couldn’t play with her because I kept nodding off. She played in her playroom while I slept for 2 hours.

Tank slept right next to me on the floor. I woke up a few times to Tank dreaming with Aleah in the background playing with her dolls. He was whimpering and growling while his paws jerked back and forth like he was chasing something. He jerked awake in the middle of one and looked straight at me. I told him it was ok and placed my hand on him while he laid his head back down and feel asleep. He reminded me of myself and the nightmares I have on a daily basis, except when I jerk awake my shirt is usually drenched in sweat and I have no one to tell me it’s ok. I hope in the future that Tank can be trained to wake me up with his paw or a gentle lick to the face to wake me up.

Tank has started to whimper when I leave him in his crate. I can hear him crying out to me as I’m putting my shoes on as if something is wrong with him. I’ve tried to ignore him, but I feel like he is hurting somehow or sad to be in the crate. I took him out to relieve himself, but he didn’t. I brought him inside and waited for him to drink or eat something but he didn’t. I figured he just didn’t want me to leave, but I had no choice but to leave him in his cage whimpering while Aleah and I grabbed lunch.

Later, I asked my trainer Lindsay what Tank’s problem was and she sent me an email explaining that he was just fine. He was trying to test his limits to see if I would stay with him. She explained that now he is comfortable with me and the house so he doesn’t want to be in his safety area. She gave me a few suggestions on how to help him not for a habit of whimpering while inside of his crate because he will need to be in it at times.

Overall, I feel safer around Tank every day and I know he feels the same about me. He follows my cues on time and learned new cues in days. I’m proud that I was able to pair with such a smart and beautiful dog. It’s amazing how much anxiety a dog can help a person relieve. It’s an extra bonus that he gets along so well with my baby girl.img_0258