(148) Ten Dogs of December

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Golly, Miss Molly

A Blog about a Service Dog and her Veteran with PTSD

(Supporting the Veteran and the Family Caregiver)

We returned to the VA Clinic for William’s doctor’s appointment rescheduled because of the Planned Parenthood shooting. No visible signs remained of the torturous episode. VA employees served Veterans with kindness and efficiency, as they generally do at our clinic. One noticeable change, however, stood out with service dogs—they showed up everywhere.

We hypothesized why so many dogs accompanied their owners today. Was it nervousness about the shootings last week just a block away? Could apprehension of driving snowy and icy roads be the cause? Perhaps, the holidays served as the reason, as we know how difficult this special time of year can be for those dealing with extreme challenges and loneliness. Likely, all three reasons are responsible for canine day at the VA.

Usually, Molly steals the show with her size, gentleness, and beauty but we left her at home. Today, there were a lot of stars with loads of canines helping Veterans. Several skirmishes broke out between untrained therapy dogs while the service dogs remained professional and obedient. Nonetheless, the VA clinic appeared as the dog days of December. Here is the rundown of those in attendance (some of the names have been changed to avoid tattling on the naughty because Santa is a Molly Blog fan).

     1 Nipper, a Miniature Aussie (name means surfer or lifesaver), who helped a young female veteran and her son      2 Bouncer, a Black Lab, (named because his owner has TBI and yells at him but he keeps bouncing back, offering unconditional love)
     3 Mallard, a German Shepherd (name means army counselor), who navigated the crowded facility, siting with his Veteran in the corner of the lobby with their backs to the wall      4 Locks, a Golden Doodle, (named for her curly locks), served her aging Veteran, who looked a lot like her without his tongue hanging out
     5 Patriot, a multiple breed dog (named so because of his American flag scarf), who kept his nervous Veteran occupied by practicing his commands; Patriot was well trained and obedient but his master left him alone several times      6 Dogchowager, a Chow (named after a Dowager, as a Chinese breed); her owner defended use of the Chow as an unofficial service animal remarking, “She doesn’t bite too much.” No need for a “Do Not Pet” patch on her vest—if she had a vest
      7 Lillie, a long-haired dachshund, sporting an official service vest, whose Veteran we met a few months earlier and remembered us (presumed named for her sweetness)      8 Altman, a Saint Bernard, (German name, meaning ‘old wise man’); Altman appeared as old as his WWII Veteran and just as wise
     9 Rosemarie, a French Bull dog (name means bitter rose), whose owner said, “You can pet her but don’t scratch her cuz she sheds.”    10 Bertha, a Bernese Mountain Dog (named for her girth), kept everyone away from her Veteran with matted fur, surly disposition, and a fierce growl if you got too close

Not every owner appeared comfortable with the behavior of their service animal today. In every case, however, the service animal and for some, their pets, calmed them and wagged tails when looking at their Veteran. Whether naughty or nice, these ten dogs of December confirm that dogs are good medicine for the broken, lonely-hearted, and downtrodden Veteran.

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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.