This is a rescue dog! We found Wiley at a no-kill animal shelter called the Hillside SPCA in Pottsville, PA. He joined our family in July of 2011. Rescue dogs make the best pets; I would know. My family has had pound puppies my whole life and I am a better person because of it. This is a place we can share our stories and spread the word: get a rescue pet!
Today’s post is a heartfelt and sincere thanks to our
American veterans. I need to share this incredible man and his journey with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.
Lon Hodge, and his “battle buddy” is Gander. Their hearts and souls are forever
linked due to Gander’s role as a service dog for Lon.
served in the Vietnam War, working in the medical field.His life was mired in the horrible and
gruesome injuries the soldiers sustained.When he returned from the war, he not surprisingly had frequent
nightmares. However, about ten years ago his mental health took a turn for the
worse when the nightmares increased in their impact and he also began having
daily panic attacks, some of which lasted up to 25 minutes.
When the panic attacks began he was diagnosed with PTSD, and
continued to battle his mental demons.Life got even worse two years ago when he developed an autoimmune
disease that caused severe arthritis. He hit rock bottom, becoming dependent on
his pain meds. He could not leave the house for any reason, not even to see a
doctor. At that point the doctors at the Veterans’ Affairs hospitals suggested
a Service Dog.
was a death row dog in Colorado who was chosen for a program in which prisoners
help train dogs to become service dogs.Freedom Service Dogs was then able to provide Gander for Lon.
being paired with Gander, Lon’s mental health has improved considerably.He seldom has panic attacks, and when he
feels one approaching and his anxiety and heart rate rise, Gander puts his paws
on Lon’s chest and snuggles in. Lon’s resting heart rate has dropped 30 BEATS
Lon would want this post to be all about Gander. He takes Gander to the VA
hospital and lets him not just socialize but also “work.”In fact Gander’s sense of empathy is
beyond most humans, and he will actually approach people, even if they aren’t
showing him any interest, when he senses they need his support.
times these people will then wind up opening up to Lon about a current crisis,
which is what Gander can sense.
being the best friend any dog could ever ask for, makes sure that Gander gets
plenty of down time, where he gets a break from sharing others’ burdens and
just gets to be a dog.
writing about Lon and Gander for so many reasons today. For one thing, I want
to encourage you to donate to Freedom Service Dogs, which is a non-profit and
amazing organization. You can click here to read about them, but you should
know that no dog they rescue ever goes back to a shelter. If the dog doesn’t
work out as a service dog they keep it until it’s adopted.They do not breed any dogs.
want you to check out Lon’s various social media sites. He posts uplifting
pictures and quotes, and best of all he gives us great updates on Gander’s
outreach and his own progress. All of the pictures on this site are from his Facebook page, and clicking on any one of them will take you back to their original source.
Click on any of the words below to go to the links.
He has also put together a book, with all proceeds going to charities that support trauma recovery and other military causes. You can see more about the book here.
Mainly with this post I
want to call attention to mental health, specifically that of our military and
their families. Currently the VA has stopped providing service dogs to veterans
until their efficacy can be researched. Readers, you wouldn’t be reading this blog if you
didn’t know the effectiveness of animals on our mental health.
doing the most important job he can for his fellow vets; he is calling
desperately needed attention to PTSD. Lon, with Gander, is proving that there
are many effective ways of dealing with mental illness, so no one ever has to
feel like he or she can’t fight and conquer their own brain when it turns
discussed dogs and veterans before, way back when I started blogging. You can
see this dog here, who stopped a suicide in progress. I’ve discussed my own mental health and Wiley’s role in helping me.
I am so grateful for Lon and Gander, who together share their journey of being battle buddies, as Lon says.
I'm including a few other links here for anyone who is interested in or needs the following information.