Golly, Miss Molly:
A blog about a service dog and her veteran with PTSD
(Supporting the veteran and the family caregiver)
Today, August 1, we celebrate Molly’s birthday. The number of candles to put on her dog bone perplexes us. We do not know how old she is nor the day, month, or year of her birth.
Molly came to us as a rescue dog, as previous readers know. Since her date of birth is unknown, we chose a date estimated by her trainer for her birth.
The useful life of a service dog spans eight to ten years (longer for some breeds). While dogs bred for service may be trained from the day weaned, dogs are released after training as early as two years old. Although ten years sounds like a long life, with the financial investment of those who purchased their dog fully trained, it is worrisome to consider replacement. For those who rely upon their dog for everyday assistance, that lifespan is heart wrenching—even debilitating.
When Molly’s training company informed us that Molly likely just passed her pup state, her veterinarian called William with news after her second visit to remove a broken molar.
“I know you said your dog is two years old but by looking at her teeth, I’d say she’s closer to four. . . or older.”
William understood this meant that Molly would spend two fewer years with him. Even though the company we purchased Molly from will replace deceased service dogs for William’s lifetime, the thought of his precious companion not being in his life as long crushed his spirit.
In reading about finding the right dog for service, suggested dogs for a less active veteran included slightly older animals because they require less exercise. At that point, I realized why God brought Molly to us. Molly connected quickly to William, surrendering her heart to him, enjoying her sedate lifestyle with two couch potatoes.
We gave up William’s first dog, Tigger, who turned two when we took her home. Not only was he poorly trained, he lived up to his name. I could not control him when running and he often disappeared for hours when let out multiple times a day
When we donated Tigger to the company we purchased Molly from, our only request sought placing her with a veteran, desiring an active lifestyle. The company retrained Tigger, using positive reinforcement. They renamed him Rocky and placed him with a female veteran in a wheelchair. His training included anticipating and helping with her seizures.
“She requested an active dog. She is young and wants the challenge of keeping up with him.” Feeling relieved with these words from the trainer, our hearts soared with news of a perfect match.
When Molly’s trainer returned for his last session with us, he exclaimed that his red—headed trainee, Molly, won the lottery in finding a place in our home.
“She may have won the lottery,” William told her trainer, “but we hit the jackpot.”
So Miss Molly, happy birthday. Take the day off!
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How do you celebrate your service dog or pet’s birthday? Please comment below.
About the blogger
Dr. Penelope “Penny” Culbreth-Graft is a retired city manager and graduate professor. She lives with her husband, William, and dog, Molly, on Cheyenne Mountain in Colorado. She writes, paints, cares for her husband, and spends time with her grandchildren.