It has been said that occasional anxiety is part of life. Maybe you feel anxious with a situation at work. I had test anxiety as a student because I worried that once I sat down to take a test all the information would just disappear. Perhaps you’ve been anxious when making a life changing decision. Maybe you live with anxiety deep down every day…
My husband’s anxiety comes and goes. While it has been easier since Memphis, “pre-Memphis” anxiety was a major challenge. One that I wanted to throat punch. I hated that there were times I could do absolutely nothing for Sam. Signs of anxiety for Sam were not noticeable to me at first. Why? Because Sam was good at hiding how he felt at times. Things or signs that I finally realized were due to be anxious or somewhat related to PTSD:
A big one: crowds. Sam was not (and still is not at times) a fan. Too many people in one place, especially when there’s no visible exit in place = not good. Anxiety to find an exit, not looking behind at the “crowd,” people being too close (as if they are breathing down your neck)–no bueno.
Last year we decided to go to the Carbondale Lights Fantastic Parade. A night out with the family–a night to get into the Christmas spirit. We loaded up the kids, blankets, hot chocolate, and we planned to meet my parents at the parade.
But there’s one problem. People go to parades. And people come out in DROVES for parades…or so it seems.
We had the PERFECT spot, close to the road, and we set up camp. Everyone had hot chocolate, a blanket, and we were ready. Then, the worst possible scenario started to unfold before my eyes.
Sam became boxed in…people around him (which was us, people he knew), and people RIGHT BEHIND HIM. Here’s the thing, Sam cannot stand having people stand right behind him. I know it is uneasy for me, but consider someone who has been in combat surrounded by people who may or may not be the enemy…in your personal space…a stranger…now imagine being surrounded at a parade. I was even uncomfortable and I knew Sam was…
I politely asked the family who moved in on our turf if they could move back a little bit. They had a double stroller. One baby was screaming/crying/unhappy. One was just sitting. The family didn’t budge. I waited a few minutes, and saw how uncomfortable Sam was–fidgeting, looking for a coin, trying to do some deep breathing…it just wasn’t working. I asked again, and they moved maybe 3 steps over. Still too close. I had to do something. That phrase “don’t rain on my parade” was in my head–even if there was no rain, it was a family outing that was slowly slipping away.
The anxiety of the people around us was so bad that Sam had to get up and go away from us–actually he walked over to a parking lot. You can’t watch a parade with your family when you are in a parking lot and they are near the edge of a curb. Tally messaged me (thank you, Facebook) and asked how things were. I was on the verge of tears, and all I could think of was “this was a bad idea.” Tally found us…after exchanging a few messages and she came over with one of the service dogs in training…
Social media…may not have been the best or smartest post, but I posted something on Facebook about just wanting to enjoy a parade with my family, maybe it was even something about parade etiquette…but, that “rant,” was read by someone special…and she reached out. Tally helped us out that night.
“Who is Tally?” you may be wondering…Tally is “my person.” Before she became “my person,” we knew her as one of the amazing trainers at This Able Veteran. After we found out Sam was going to be in the class, we got to meet some of staff at TAV/Extreme K9. I had no idea that those people would be friends that would become like family.
Tally helped us salvage what was left of the parade, and with tears in my eyes, all I could muster was a whisper of a thank you. She went over to Sam with one of the pups…and for the first time I saw Sam break down. He felt like he let us down…he felt like he ruined the parade…can you imagine? That pup in training helped him more than they both knew that night. And it was then I realized the decision to apply to TAV was the best move Sam could have made.
I’m pretty sure God knew what he was doing when he placed Tally in our life…and not just Tally, but so many other folks we have met through This Able Veteran. Tally was so helpful to me, especially when Sam was in training…she would check in with me, let me know how Sam was doing, and sometimes I got pictures of the bonding between Sam and Memphis during those three weeks.
This picture of Tally with Sam and Memphis is adorable (and yes, my husband is wearing sunglasses inside). Tally loves her job. She loves those precious pups as if they were her own. Tally loves the Veterans that she meets. I have seen her in action, working with Memphis and other dogs…and she is dedicated to making Veterans lives better. And of course there’s aunt Miranda, aunt Lauren, uncle Jeff, aunt Jacee, Mama B. Doan, aunt Pam, aunt Michelle…aunt Beth, uncle Chuck…anyone and everyone who’s loved on Memphis…it takes a village of people to prepare these dogs to be companions for life for some very deserving Veterans.
How and why does Memphis know what to do? Because of his training. Sam is often asked if he is training Memphis, or if the dog is trained. Memphis was trained by some of the best people I know (see above). He made public appearances as a pup, learned to pick up on behaviors that a Veteran may exhibit, and eventually learned how to help Sam in a variety of situations. That’s right. Memphis was specifically trained for some of Sam’s behaviors. Amazing, right?
For the longest time I was so frustrated with myself for not being able to help calm Sam down when he was anxious. I wished there was something I could do, hoped that I could help—I would have even invested in magic wand to make it all go away if I could have…
And then Memphis came into our lives…and he’s blessed Sam more than he’ll ever know. <3