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

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