(82) A Baby, a Dog, and a SOG: Life as a Caregiver

Molly, the service dogGolly, Miss Molly

A Blog about a Service Dog and her Veteran with PTSD

(Supporting the Veteran and the Family Caregiver)

Growing up, did you imagine yourself being a caregiver to a family member? Did you ever think you might need a caregiver, praying that it would be your spouse, your child, or your mother? While there are many people called to caregiving as a profession, I doubt many of us expected we would be caring for our Veteran or that we would need that care ourselves.

At 57, I find myself caregiving for my disabled Veteran husband, his service dog, and my granddaughter. Traveling over 300 miles a week to care for the three, I am every bit as haggard as when I worked 80 plus hours a week managing cities. While my husband rests in the afternoon, I ponder my predicament, chuckling about how different life turned out. At this stage of my life, I thought I would be traveling around the world on cruises, visiting with foreign dignitaries, and mingling with aborigines. I imagined that between my trips, clipping my pictures and creating scrapbooks would pass the time until the next adventure.

Instead, I find myself caring for others until I drop from exhaustion. Picking myself up, I manage yet another day.

Oddly enough, I cannot imagine my life any other way. I made a list of what makes this life blessed, fulfilling, and better than the retirement I planned.

  1. I ditched my high heels and pantyhose for blue jeans and my husband’s old t-shirts.
  2. I get hugs on the good days from at least one of my three caregivees, which come in the form of a tender embrace, drool, or slobber.
  3. My scrapbook clippings contain pictures of my three sweethearts, journaling milestones in each of their lives.
  4. Instead of receiving gifts of bones from aborigines, I get to clean up the bone fragments from Molly’s rawhide to treasure. Instead of a flag or pin from a foreign dignitary, my husband goes to Jarad’s. Instead of a brochure from the Princess Cruise line, I clip the notice of my granddaughter’s baby dedication and birth announcement.
  5. Instead of listening for an announcement of a delayed flight, I sit in the comfort of home and write blogs in my unexpected down time.
  6. I am never forced to eat squid, monkey brains, or anything I don’t want to eat because I am the cook for everyone and I make what I like to eat.
  7. I never have to pay for the gym or workout next to sweaty men or flashy women in spandex because I run up and down the stairs all day, averaging 8,000 steps a day.
  8. At the end of the day, I fall asleep, knowing that I made a positive difference in the lives of an incredibly precious child, a deserving Veteran, and a goofy service dog named Molly. 

*SOG is a Vietnam-era acronym for Search and Observation Group, which is the group William served in during Vietnam. 

Post your Comments: 

What is the best thing about caregiving for your Veteran or other family member? Please reply 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.