Training = Maze

“Training a service dog is like…”

While walking Tank this morning, I thought of how to best describe service dog training to people who’ve never experienced it. The closest thing I can compare it to is a maze.

Just think about it, your view of the maze is like life with PTSD. You try your hardest to navigate the many jagged, twisty paths to get through to the finish but the tools you have just won’t work. You end up getting worried, bad anxiety attacks, and flashbacks just thinking about trying it on your own. There needs to be a new tool to help you navigate through the complicated maze.

Stick with me now, here is where it gets interesting.

Someone very kind walks up and hands you a pen, a new tool to help you achieve your goals of navigating through the maze. I’d like to think of a service dog as the pen, a companion that keeps you calm and focused on achieving your life goals.

Instead of getting freaked when thinking about the maze, you are able to calmly use your new tool to start navigating through the many different obstacles.

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Tank

When I think about Tank, he did just that. I was practically a hermit, not leaving the house unless I needed to because of flashbacks. Just thinking about going out would be a struggle because I kept thinking of all the obstacles that may present themselves while out. When I received Tank from Project Delta and we were able to start public training, I felt better about going out. I actually wanted to.

I was able to use my pen and focus on calmly navigating through life. I got further with the pen than I did trying to depend on the tools I had.

But like the maze, training a service dog can usually lead to a dead-end. You have the right tool, but you can’t get past the road block because the tool ended up malfunctioning.

In my case, Tank ended up being way too overprotective. At home I couldn’t get him to stop barking at neighbors and dogs that walked by. Out in public I couldn’t sit down without Tank freaking out on people walking by, barking and snapping his jaws at them.

It was a side of Tank that I never saw coming. It’s a trait that’s hard to break, I would never be able to get him certified as a service dog. I love Tank to death, but I still had goals to accomplish, I still need to get to the finish.

Just like starting over on a maze, I have to try to find a different dog to help me finish my goal. I’m starting down the same path with the same tool hoping for a different outcome.

That’s just what it’s like, ask anyone and they’ll agree.

Three more days until Tank goes to his new home. He’s helped me overcome a lot of obstacles I would have never been able to do on my own. It’s hard letting him go, but he’s served his purpose.

Maze

Being Panicked

Panicked – Not in My Vocabulary

It took awhile for me to adjust to civilian life after the Army. The whole world seamed to be out of place. There wasn’t an order to everything like the military and people ran around like little kids doing and saying whatever came to mind.

The one thing that really stood out the most is the way people would become panicked whenever something serious happened. Being panicked isn’t in my vocabulary. After 14 months of being mortared, shot at and receiving blown-up patients  in the middle of the night drove fear right out of me.

I’ve learned that nothing good comes out of being panicked. You don’t think straight and nothing will get accomplished as you’re running around like a chicken with its head cut off.

I’m not saying that I don’t get a little scared in sticky situations, I’m saying that I don’t let it control me. I have faith that God will tell me the right thing to do and that basically drives the fear right out of me and allows my brain to function properly so I can think straight. My wife and daughter sometimes think that I care about them because I don’t get panicked when they hurt themselves.  I care about them, I just know that they will be ok.

I’m pretty sure every medic who has a CMB (Combat Medic Badge) can think calmly under bad situations because of practice. Next time you find yourself in a panick just remember to take a deep breath, say a quick prayer and try to deal with it the best you can.

Panicked

important roles of a service dog

Important Roles of a Service Dog

These past few weeks have been extremely busy for me. Between appointments at the VA, cleaning the house, writing and doing yard work, I’ve had little time to relax. It’s really not that bad that my time is filled. This time last year I was a hermit never looking to leave the house unless I had to. I feel as though I’ve been blessed beyond belief this year and I’m the happiest I’ve been in a while.

I have noticed a change in my mood when I’m out in public without Tank. I forget things at the store because my anxiety is pushing me towards leaving as fast as I can. That leaves me with having to go to two different stores to get the items I missed. When Tank was with me I felt calm and I was able to think clearly. When my symptoms ramped up I would feel the pressure of his head pressing against my leg and that would be enough to get me out of my head and in the moment. All I had to do was lean down to pet him and the anxiety and stress inside was reduced.

I’m missing Tank being with me so much that I sometimes see or feel him when he isn’t there. Like the other day when I was walking through Target I started feeling overwhelmed because of too many people around. I thought for sure that Tank was on my right side, I even looked down to see if there was the slight chance of him being there.

Yesterday as I was driving home I started to get really bad road rage because of some dumb drivers. As I turned a corner I thought I saw the black of Tanks shiny hair and again I looked back like I always do to calm myself down. Instead of his pretty brown eyes staring back at me all I saw was an empty seat. Sometimes it feels like I see a ghost of Tank, it’s weird.

The only thing I can compare it to is the first couple weeks out of the Army. Waking up late freaking out like I missed PT formation, I even caught myself standing at ease with my hands behind my back while in line. It was odd readjusting to a life without expectations, responsibilities, forced exercise, and people who can relate. Or when someone you love either dies or leaves to go somewhere forever. It’s like you whole body goes through withdraws from that person because they where such an important part of your life.

I guess I’m sort of going through a withdraw. He has been such an important tool in my recovery that I’ve dependent on him to help me get through rough situations and bare being in public without sweating like I’m in a hot box.

I’ve learned that service dogs play an important role in the lives of people with disabilities. They become a part of who we are by being there whenever we need them, either for emotional or physical support. I never realized it until I was without Tank.

He will be leaving in a few weeks. I don’t think it will be extremely hard to deal until I pair with another dog. I have high hopes that it won’t take long. I’ve actually forced myself away from Tank for the past week, letting my daughter play with him and fulfill his need. that way I feel like it will be an easier transition. He doesn’t like it that much, if I don’t pay him attention he will forcefully place himself in front of me and stare me in the eyes whimpering until I ask what he wants.

I love Tank to death, always and forever. I will be ok without, one journey ending and another on beginning.

combatmedic.org (happy Tank)

Accepting the Inevitable

Happy easter everyone! First off I want to say thank you to Jesus Christ for everything he did for me, without him I’d still be struggling with life.

I really had an eye opening experience these past few days, something that I’d like to share because I think it will help people struggling with PTSD or any painful experience that was felt in life.

As you know there has been an active search for a family that can welcome Tank into their home. A great couple came along that thought Tank would be an awesome addition to their home. Tank had a play date with their dog Jack, it was like they knew each other from a past life they got along so well.

This past Friday I met with the couple without the dogs there. They were an awesome couple, better than I’d even thought they’d be. We shared stories of our dog’s antics and I told them as much as I could about Tank and his needs. They both work from home half the week and they are just know buying a three level house were Tank and Jack can run outside from the main level or down the second level deck.

It sounds like he’s going to have a better life than he’s had here. I’m so happy for him. I’ve been hoping that he’d find a good home so I won’t feel as guilty for giving him away, it makes it a lot easier on the both of us.

We hope that after they have Tank for a few months and I have another dog by my side, we can have visits. It’s good to know that I won’t have to say bye to him forever. Who knows, this couple could become good friends and we can see Tank for years to come.

I can’t say that the whole experience left me happy. I left the meeting with an actual time when Tank will be leaving. Walking out of the Starbucks into gloomy rain felt appropriate for the mood I was in. Something inside of my chest was tingling as I walked slowly through the rain towards my car.  Getting drenched wasn’t a concern, I didn’t even notice my pants were soaked until I sat inside my car.

Thoughts weren’t pouring through my head like normal, images of the whole meeting circled around instead. I imagined Tank in their home, the life  he’d have with Jack running around playing and digging holes.

I think my heart was the thing tingling, because now it burns a little with every jolt of my heartbeat. I guess I was really sad, I’m not that in touch with my emotions anymore, that’s why I can only describe the feelings that I get because they come on so sudden and leave abruptly.

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He’s cool just laying there.

I think the only times in my life I’ve felt like this was when I left someone or someone left me. I remember when my mom moved out and divorced my dad. We were on a trip with my dad and came back with all of her stuff gone. I remember not being able to talk to her and crying curled up in a ball on my bed for days. The same feeling of my heart being burned and torn from my chest… it almost that close.

Did I make the wrong decision to keep looking for a service dog?

Will I find a dog better than him?

I can’t stop those thoughts even though I know the answer… No, I didn’t.

Everything in life happens for a reason. Every struggle that I’ve faced has made me stronger in the end. I know that this feeling will pass and I know in my heart that it’ll work out for the best.

One day I’ll have a service dog by my side everywhere I go, a tool that will help me travel around to talk with people about how to live a better life with PTSD.

Tank has served his purpose for me and I hope his future is filled with love.

Jolt

Living a Meaningful Life


I remember how my life was just four years ago, trapped inside of my head alone and filled with darkness. I never wanted to leave my apartment because of the random flashbacks and spouts of anger I had while being out in public. No one could see, feel or hear what I was going through. Everything I did to feel normal felt meaningless.

Every relationship I had started to slowly deteriorate away. It’s not like my family and friends didn’t try to help me, I just didn’t want their help. I thought they wouldn’t understand, which is true but it didn’t mean they didn’t love me and care about what was happening. I pushed everyone away.

One day I had a longing to get out of the pits I was trapped in. While on the brink of suicide I had a talk with God. He gave me the strength to see that I had the power to overcome my demons and that I needed to start having a relationship with him so I could start living a meaningful life.

From that moment on I have put all my faith into Him, a decision that I’ll never regret. I started going to church and  reading the bible daily, applying every scripture I read to my life. I started seeing a change inside and my relationships with friends and family started growing.

I would love to say the flashbacks and anger stopped, but it didn’t. I just stopped letting it control every aspect of my life so I could live a more meaningful one.

I urge every veteran that reads this to take the initiative to have a relationship with God so you don’t have to take the weight of life on your own. In time you will learn how to live a more meaningful life and stop letting the past run your future.

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Meaningless

Tank – Not Your Ordinary Dog

I’ve just received news from Project Delta that a couple in a town near me is interested in fostering and possibly adopting Tank. This coming up Sunday I’m going to bring him over to their house for a meet and greet. They really sound like a nice couple and I’m hoping the best for our upcoming meeting.

I really started to think about the awesome relationship that Tank and I have since  hearing he’ll be going to a better place soon. He’s saved me from the emptiness I’ve felt inside since coming home from war.What I’ve been actively trying to fix about myself for the past thirteen years was accomplished within a few months of being with Tank.

Tank isn’t your ordinary dog. He’s smart beyond belief. The first time I saw him I knew that there was something special about him. He immediately caught my attention the way that he was so cautious in how he approached everything. I was told not to pet him the first time he walked up to me, it took every ounce of patience that I had not to. ‘He’s such a pretty dog’ I remember thinking as he looked at me with his soft mahogany brown eyes as he walked past me.

It felt like the constant fog of anger and frustration that was over me parted. The calm came over me felt so good. As he made he second round around the room I was told to calm him over to me. All I did was say, “Come here boy!” and he ran straight into my hands. As I per him he rubbed his head across my leg over and over again

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Something started stirring up inside my chest that I haven’t felt in a long time. After a while I noticed that I had a smile was smeared across my face.

I knew he was the one. When everyone asked what I thought about him, I couldn’t help but to say yes. They told me that I would know deep down inside when I’ve found a great dog to pair, they weren’t lying.

The bond between us grew stronger the more time we trained together. After two months I noticed a huge change in how I approached the world. I started having positive thought instead of negative. My mind was clear enough for me to take my time whenever I had to go to a store with my family. If Tank wasn’t so overprotective he would have been the perfect service dog.

Now I’m stuck with giving this extraordinary dog over to a couple that he could possible grow a stronger bond with forever. It really sucks to think about it. I actually feel jealous, but I know he’ll be happier, especially with another dog’s  for him to sniff. Ha!

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Tank half asleep wanting more head scratches.

Ordinary

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The signs and symptoms of PTSD. Know them, save lives.

PTSD Symptoms: Know Them, Save Lives


The main reason I wrote Combat Medic was because God told me it would help save lives. It wasn’t easy sitting down every day for four months to write down the most dreadful memories that I remember. The only way I was able to bear it was keeping in mind that writing my story wasn’t just going to help me understand what happened to me, it was going to educate the world on what Post Traumatic Stress Disorder is so people can start getting the treatment that they need.

I took the time to write about PTSD at the end of my book to draw the reader’s attention back into the main focus of my story. If you would like more information on PTSD you can find it on wikipedia.

“Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder develops in some people that have seen or lived through a scary or dangerous event. It causes people to isolate themselves from things that remind them of the experience. It makes a person feel numb and void, forcing them to be less interested in things they used to enjoy. It causes people to hear and see things that aren’t around in the form of a flashback making it feel as real as the first time. Recurring nightmares won’t allow a person to forget what happened. It’s a tough fight to go through on your own.

If you know someone who’s currently struggling with PTSD, be there. Even if they push you away because they think you won’t understand, be there with open arms to catch them when they fall, even if you don’t understand, because no one else will. Well over 22 veterans commit suicide each day in America, proof that war never ends; even after you’re safe at home. I almost became a statistic, but by the grace of God I was given the strength to fight and go after a better life.

In time I’ve found that talking to counselors has helped with sorting through the pain and darkness I’m feeling. It also helped that I had a loving girlfriend who was willing to listen and try to make things work as best as possible. If I didn’t have her I wouldn’t be here today.

If you’re a veteran and need help, go talk to someone. If you can be seen at the Veterans Hospital, talk to a counselor. Find out if they can get you help. If that doesn’t work, try talking to family or friends, anyone you can to get whatever you have trapped inside, out. Find God as well. Try to build a strong relationship with Him because with His help you can make it through the impossible.

If you are in need to talk to someone because you’re in a crisis, do what I did and call the Veterans Crisis line: 1-800-273-8255″

http://amzn.com/B01FTA9J7K

Symptom

Reaching the Plane of Acceptance


It’s been a tough couple of weeks since I found out that Tank can’t be my service dog. It’s hard to think about what I have to do. I’ve made the decision to let Tank go and start the search for a new dog. After having him for three months I feel like he is a part of me.

I love him, but my needs out way my wants. When I made the decision that having a service dog would be beneficial to my life, I was thinking of a future without limitations on where I wanted to go and what I wanted to do. A service dog would allow me to go out and talk about my story without the anxiety and worry that PTSD brings.

Tank is a great dog and it’s hard to even think about letting him go, but I have a mission that I have to accomplish and he can’t help me fulfill it. He belongs with someone that won’t demand so much from him. All he really wants to do is go outside to play, get his belly rubbed, and eat and sleep most of the day away.

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Tank loves riding in the car!

I told Lindsay that we would foster him until they find him a good home. It is one of the hardest decisions I’ve made in a long time. I wish I could have two dogs, but that is too much work for me and I don’t think Tank would adjust well with another dog taking his place.

I’ve already noticed a change in our relationship since I’ve stopped bringing him into public with me. He is super clingy after being home on his own for a couple hours. I feel like he knows that something has changed when he sits and stares at me when I come home. I wish I could just talk to him and tell him to stop lashing out. This is the only time in my life that I wish I could talk dog.

As I go about my day without Tank now, I’ve noticed my anxiety has increased and I’m a bit more jumpy than before. My mood changes rapidly when I have to go out into public. I don’t know where all the anger comes from that builds up inside of me, it’s so overwhelming that it makes me nauseas. It’s strange how I notice all of these things now, but before Tank I was used to feeling this way.

That change inside of me has pushed me to a place of acceptance when it comes to my decision for Tank. He brought about a change inside of me that I don’t ever want to let go. Having a service dog will help improve my life greatly. It’s depressing to think about Tank not being able to fill that role, but knowing that such a change is possible gives me hope for the future with another dog that, hopefully, will take a permanent place by my side.

Acceptance

How to: Stop Blood Loss with Minimal Effort (3 Steps)


Before I joined the Army, I had no idea about the human anatomy. If someone got injured in front of me, I wouldn’t have had the slightest idea of how to help them. It’s pretty sad the more I think about it. If everyone was taught the basics of blood loss prevention at a young age, we would have a lot more lives saved.

Just think about, most people get seriously injured with other people around. The quick actions of one individual can be life saving when someone is on the ground profusely bleeding out.

It’s really not that hard to stop the most basic cuts and scratches. With enough practice you can even learn how to use a tourniquet to stop arterial bleeding.blood-drops

Step 1- Get over the shock of blood or death– Yes… someone just got jacked up right in front and blood is everywhere. Yes, they look like they might die and they will if you don’t get over yourself. The only difference between a hero and coward is the choice to either do something or do nothing. Both get scared and both don’t really know what to do, but the hero sucks it up and tries their best. So be the hero, tell someone to call 911 and start thinking about a course of action.

Step 2- Asses the patient– You have to figure out what kind of wound you’re working with. Not every patient is presented the same way. Maybe someone is knocked out on the ground and blood is coming from somewhere but you can’t see where. Drag your hands on the outside of their body until you find a wet spot, make sure you get a good look at the wound and the bleeding.

If it’s a deep cut and dark blood is flowing out then you need to get your hands on something to roll up and place over the wound. You could take off your shirt or their’s, ball it up and place it on the wound.

Step 3- Place firm pressure on the makeshift bandage. A good medic knows that most bleeding can be stopped by holding pressure on the wound for 10-15 minutes. Don’t let go of the pressure unless you need to get to another cut. If someone is around, tell them to hold the pressure while you dress up their other wounds.

If there is brighter red blood gushing out of an extremity ( arms or legs) and pressure isn’t stopping the bleeding, then there is an artery cut. The only way to stop arterial bleeding is by placing a tourniquet above the cut to constrict the artery and stop the flow of blood. This is more of an advanced technique, but it is really simple.  Here is a good video by ZombieStrategic that shows you how to apply a good tourniquet.

Hopefully after 10-15 minutes an ambulance will have arrived to give more advanced medical treatment and get the patient to a hospital. If not just wait and make sure the patient is comforted until they arrive.

Minimal

How to: Conquer your fears (3 steps)


Most people in the world have a fear of something. A fear of heights, a fear of spiders, and some people are even afraid of Cats. It’s been built into us by our creator so that we stie clear of things that might cause us harm.

The old flight or fight mechanism sometimes takes control of our emotions to the level of unrealistic fear. We were born with only two fears: the fear of falling and the fear of being alone. Every other fear in life has been learned mostly because of situations that  people go through. So there is a way to conquer your fear , right? What’s been learned can always be forgotten, all it takes is making the effort to.

Try these three simple steps to conquer your fears and start believing that you are more than the fear inside of you.IMG_0318

Step 1– instead of reinforcing your fear of something, try replacing your negative experience with a positive one. For instance, your afraid of heights because you brother used to hang you out of your third story window and one day he dropped you and broke your leg. Ever since you have panic attacks every time you look out of a tall building.

Instead of giving into the fear and constantly running away, try facing your fear head on by going to the top of a tall building every week until your comfortable with it then invite your friends or family so they can put you in good spirits while you do the thing you fear most. Eventually , after practice, your fear will become a distant noise.

Step 2– Speak against your fear, go to war with it, don’t let it gain control you. When you feel like running, speak out loud against what ‘s provoking you. It’s something inside of you that tells you something is wrong, so if you get in the habit of speaking the opposite of what you think and encourage yourself out loud, your fears will start to be drowned out by what you truly value if you want it bad enough. Who cares if people think your talking to yourself , at least you know yourself well enough to know you aren’t crazy. It’s for your health to overcome fear.

Step 3: Perfect love drowns out fear , no matter how big it is. So what is perfect love? It’s knowing that you can trust the promises someone tells you and you confined in one another. It’s easy to find perfect love, God Gave it to us when Jesus sacrificed himself for us. If you can find and have a relationship with Jesus and your lord God, you’ll find that the love that surrounds you every day is more than the fear of anything in this world.

If you can truly try with all you heart to face your fears then you can conquer them. It just takes digging deeper into your heart for the encouragement to live a life without fear.
Conquer