(63) Fly Fishing and the Turkey Chase

Molly, the service dog

Golly, Miss Molly

A blog about a service dog and her veteran with PTSD

(Supporting the veteran and the family caregiver)


About Project Healing Waters

Are you a veteran, who enjoys fly fishing? This week, William and I spoke to a fellow Vietnam Veteran, who told us about a non-profit program called Project Healing Waters. The program mission “. . . is dedicated to the physical and emotional rehabilitation of disabled active military service personnel and disabled veterans through fly fishing and associated activities including education and outings.”

The program started with the compassion of Ed Nicholson, a Vietnam Veteran, for his fellow disabled veterans. The program serves veterans throughout the US. The program is home based in Maryland.

Several years ago, William decided he wanted to fly fish. He purchased the equipment and sought out people and companies to help him learn the sport. A month later, surgery on his foot made it impossible for him to walk on rocky terrain. That surgery led to three years of convalescence. His fly fishing equipment remains boxed in the closet.

Dreaming Big

My husband dreams big. Most dreams he chases end up like the turkeys Molly chases—scattered and elusive. In William’s case, dashed dreams slap him in the face, leaving him depressed and frustrated. While I want to help make his dreams reality, most of his dreams are bigger than what I can help him attain.

When we heard about Project Healing Waters, a spark ignited. William’s excitement spilled out, as he listened to the veteran describe his connection to the program. The veteran we spoke with shared that he, too, lived with fleeting dreams but that his dream of fly fishing really happened. He shared how he developed deep friendships with other veterans through the outings they took. Although he moved to another region, he still returns to the local program because of the friendships he made.

We emailed our regional representative listed on the Project Healing Waters webpage and William looks forward to participating in the program. Even if he lacks the strength to participate, the excitement of being so close to one of his dreams gives him hope. Almost giddy, my veteran waits impatiently for a reply. He wants to fish!

Turkey Chasing 

We tether Molly out front, which is on a steep hillside that merges into forest. Flocks of turkeys feather the hillside. The birds’ daily migration through our yard starts around 7:30 am and ends with the migration back home before dark. Molly gets two chances to chase them. Of course, on her tether, she cannot go too far so she barks. The turkeys move slowly and stumble on the rocks in their path, teasing Molly into believing she will capture her prey. Nonetheless, they get away without a scar. Each day Molly chases the turkeys, knowing she cannot catch them. Unlike her master, she never shows frustration or anger at never catching a turkey. I think her dream is the chase.

As for William, I think he always enjoyed the chase and often that was enough. As his PTSD worsens, the chase no longer satisfies. He wants results. I am hoping that at least his fly fishing dream comes true.

Time will tell who the best dream catcher is—Molly or William. I am hoping William wins. If Molly ends up snagging a turkey, plucking fowl falls on me. Wait a minute. If William wins, will I have to skin the fish?

Post your Comments: 

Do you or your veteran have a dream that is within reach? What can you do to get results and capture that dream? Please comment below. 

About the blogger

 Dr. Penelope “Penny” Culbreth-Graft is a retired city manager and graduate professor. She lives with her disabled Vietnam Veteran husband, William, and his service dog, Molly, on Cheyenne Mountain in Colorado. She writes, paints, cares for her husband, and spends time with her grandchildren.