(87) Wrestling with Bears: The Fearless Veteran

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)


Molly and William Wrestle Bears

Lately, William and Molly take on the bears without a whimper or hesitation. This spring, a black male the size of an SUV took residency in the bear den a few hundred yards west of our home in a cave at the bottom of NORAD.

One day, the bear conveniently sunned himself on the vacant lot 50 feet from our front door. When I left the house for my semi-weekly pilgrimage up north, I spotted him when opening my garage door. I figured he planned one of three things: (1) he wants sunshine to burn off the winter doldrums, (2) he wants the food I overstocked in the garage freezer, or (3) he wants to eat Molly when chained to the tree in front of the house. Needless-to-say, I did not wait to find out. I jumped into my car, exiting the garage quickly so I could shut the door. (Our bears love to wander into open garages and tear into freezers and spare refrigerators. They also love to tear car doors off if a car stays outside with any food or gum left inside.)

Before driving away, I called William and alerted him to the tanning bear. While making my call, the bear simply tanned himself with a rueful smile stretched across his face. Finally, he picked himself up and wandered back into the forest, revealing his massive backside (likely from snacking on too many Twinkies left overnight on car seats).

Molly knows bears are dangerous. When we take her out, she sniffs the air and returns indoors if she smells the bear. Because we chain her up so she does not wander off and ingest extra calories from a deer carcass, we listen and watch for any of the bears. Her senses are acute—ours are not.

Sometimes we are in a hurry for Molly to conduct her business and want to force her out. She knows when danger lurks and occasionally shoves William or me back inside the house and stands guard. We want to force her back out to get on with things. Only, Molly knows there is danger and pushes back. Even though she is not dressed for work, her protective instinct kicks in. She never received bear training so we know this behavior is instinctive and a sign of amazing love.

The Protective Warrior

Many times in my career, I found out later that the special men in my life protected me from threats unseen simply by their instinctive behavior and concern for me. William tops the list as my fiercest protector. Now in our old age, he shares with me some of the threats he protected me from while working at various cities. As a female city manager, apparently I attracted a number of lunatics, who wanted to harm me. Sometimes, I knew something was not right but did not ask about the details. I knew my husband handled it.

Several of the police chiefs I worked with provided behind the scenes security for me. One in particular knew about the stalking my young son and I experienced in southern California. He watched out for us in my first city manager job. Years after I left the city, I heard the tales from others of what he did to protect me and not worry me with the incidents.

I wonder how many of us spouses of warriors and Veterans receive the same protection without being aware. After all, they are trained to protect us. Not only is it part of the male psyche, it is particularly acute to the trained warrior. As spouses, we may never know what hidden dangers our warrior protects us from. We may even believe our warrior is paranoid, overprotective, or suffocating, especially to our children. While paranoia is a symptom of PTSD, the warrior’s nature is to protect. From their heart of love, they will never stop providing this protection—just like Molly when she smells the bear or hears an unfamiliar sound.

As for me, I am a wimp when danger surrounds. If I could, I would bury my head in the sand like an ostrich. I am thankful for Molly’s protective instincts. I am grateful beyond all measure and blessed to have a Veteran, who would give his life to protect others and me. His protection tells me how much he cherishes me. It reminds me, I am loved.

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What does your Veteran do to protect you and your family? 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 granddaughter.