(155) Not Another New Year: Exchanging Despair for a Goal

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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)

The year 2015 melts away as quickly as stolen unsalted butter melts on Miss Molly’s tongue. While for some, a new year rushes in with promise and new beginnings, for others, it stinks like dog breath and litter boxes.

After my father died when I was a young adult, anger tumbled into resentment as I watched people continue with their happy lives. Even birds singing and children laughing triggered heartache deeper than the San Andreas Fault.

Passing through this holiday season, Veterans reminded me of the loneliness and despair wrought by PTSD, TBI, and war-related illness. Often changing the subject in VA hospital waiting rooms to a brighter topic, I raised the question of New Year’s resolutions and the promise of a better year. Jaws tightened. Eyes rolled.

“Ain’t nothing good ‘bout another year,” one Veteran said.

Although I understood despair from my Father’s passing, I will never know the despair of a Veteran with disabilities from war.

My husband participated in a VA PTSD program for CPT (Cognitive Processing Therapy). Veterans’ assignments required the setting of goals for their health and overall lifestyle. Goal setting required self-assessment, focus, and taking control over PTSD.

Serving in the military, our Veterans are no strangers to goal-setting, to-do lists, and achievement so using them to outrun despair lies within reach. For the caregiver, juggling family demands and managing a Veteran’s medical needs, goals can make the difference between having time to rest or a never-ending sink of dirty dishes.

Consider setting your New Year’s resolution with goals that will bring you closer to your ideal future. Make them SMART—Simple, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Time specific.

Is Your Goal SMART?

Let’s use Molly’s New Year’s Resolution as an example of a SMART goal:

No more eating the Christmas ham from the countertop.

  • Simple – It is a straightforward goal—even for a dog
  • Measurable – We know if she eats it or if she does not so we can measure success or failure
  • Attainable – Molly can achieve this goal because she knows it is wrong to eat from the counter even if her alpha human mom leaves it out; since she knows not to eat off restaurant floors, she can know she must avoid countertops
  • Realistic – Molly’s training includes rewarding her for good behaviors and redirecting her when she engages in unacceptable behavior like eatingMolly licking her lips from counters; her training makes this goal realistic
  • Time Specific – Christmas is a specific day and the ham sits on the countertop for a limited time

Good job, Miss Molly. This is the perfect New Year’s resolution. Have a piece of ham—oh, I forgot; there isn’t any left because you ate it all off the counter on Christmas!

Post your Comments:

Have you or your service dog made a New Year’s resolution? Please reply below.

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.