Golly, Miss Molly
A Blog about a Service Dog and her Veteran with PTSD
(Supporting the Veteran and the Family Caregiver)
Before taking William for oral surgery, I double checked to make sure my grandma bag hung out-of-reach of Molly, who stayed behind. The bag hung securely by the handles wrapped twice around the top of a high barstool. Having learned that Molly loves the taste of baby squeeze fruit and animal crackers, I took those items out of the bag in case she found a way to disengage the 12-pound bag.
When returning home, Molly nuzzled up to William and avoided eye contact with me—a sure sign of mischief. A trail of torn plastic bags and brownie crumbs told me all I needed to know—she figured out how to untangle the handles of my grandma bag and snag the bag without knocking over the rod-iron chair. She removed my forgotten snacks and chowed down.
Checking the chocolate meter from Blog 5, I knew two Fiber One brownies would not harm her so I cleaned up the mess, as I mumbled “bad dog.” Molly had curled up with William while I tossed empty wrappers. Seeing the two together, it took only a moment to forget her naughtiness and acknowledge what a blessing she is as a service animal, who steadies William, consoles him when his PTSD flares, and loves him unconditionally.
Another Unexpected Blessing
William thanked me for caring for him and accompanying him to the oral surgeon’s office on one of the most blustery days we have experienced in Colorado. As it ended up, the trip to the surgeon landed me a blessing quite unexpected.
Because of the blizzard, several patients cancelled except for another tough guy and his wife. The tough guy was an 80-year old retired Army Colonel, who braved the storm to bring his wife in for surgery. It turned out that the Colonel and my husband served in Vietnam at the same time. Both fought in the worst battle during the Vietnam War—the TET Offensive in 1968.
I listened to the Colonel’s story, which made the pages of history spring into life in the waiting room. Tough guy trained at the Monterey Language Institute, becoming fluent in Vietnamese during the war. Serving on several missions, he led men into battle. As the war winded down, he was assigned to negotiate for the release of American and South Vietnamese Prisoners of War (POWs). I felt his misery of those times when his team failed in negotiations, being forced to leave many behind. I shared in his joy when his team succeeded in extracting hundreds. I cried when he spoke of the torture and pain he observed, touring Hotel Hanoi and other POW camps. He looked surprisingly younger than his age but as he spoke of his years in Vietnam, his eyes told the story of every soldier lost to war and how deeply he hurt for each one—the memories hanging on the edge of his heart.
After surgery, I introduced William to the retired Colonel. They spoke about their paths that crossed many times unaware to each. The comradery was instant. For me it was a connection of the heart to an ordinary man who did extraordinary things to bring our POWs home.
Marveling at his 57-year marriage that lasted through-out his multiple tours in war zones, I was awed that my husband’s surgery resulted in an unexpected blessing—one that I will long cherish.
Suffering Guaranteed, Blessings Assured
Life guarantees us suffering, hurt, and pain—an inescapable reality for human beings. Out of this condition, however, we are assured of blessings such as the ones I received on the day William had his surgery. As a woman of faith, I am learning that out of suffering comes growth, wisdom, and joy. Learning to endure the hard times enables one to focus on the precious gems that surface from the flames of refinement. Today, I received two gems—a reminder of Molly’s love and the journey into Vietnam with a Colonel who served to bring home our POWs.
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Photo credits: pculbrethgraft
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.