Tuesday, April 13, 2010

The Western Store – Take 2

Most of you are familiar with the recent story about the Western Store and Mr. Robert Bryant, the now infamous anti-Service Dog, Robert Bryant. The gentleman who with his simple statement, “I don’t care about the law, get that ‘damn’ dog out of my store,” found out just how fast the internet can transform words into instant outrage. The gentleman who now knows the power of a little girl with disabilities and her Service Dog, ELLIE. The businessman who now knows there are laws that he MUST follow when it comes to Service Dogs and their partners. The businessman who now teeters between staying in business and going out of business, all for the want of “not knowing” the law. The audacity to be so unkind, so unsympathetic, not to mention his ability to display a new standard in customer service, to a Mother with a child with disabilities and a Service Dog, may set Mr. Bryant apart from the “normal” businessman. I am sure Mr. Bryant will not soon forget his Monday afternoon of March 29th.

After being besieged by the press, both local and national, the public, the internet, and the “law,” Mr. Bryant also learned the definition of compassion and forgiveness as Dr. Susan Ivancevich, her daughter Amanda, and her Service Dog ELLIE, accepted Mr. Bryant’s apology on Friday, April 2nd. Mr. Bryant’s apology was coupled with his promise to follow the laws pertaining to individuals with disabilities and their Service Dogs being allowed into his Western Store.

Life has taught me that apologies and promises are cheap and easily obtained when they are given under duress and potential looming legal action. So as an old adage goes “trust, but verify,” I could not be in Wilmington without visiting the Western Store, along with my sidekick, CHAENEY, a certified Psychiatric Service Dog. I was also accompanied by a paws4vetsTM Client, HM2 Buf Kloppenborg, USN, and his certified Psychiatric Service Dog, SALLY. So in the late morning of Thursday, April 8th, I drove into the parking lot of the Western Store. I was prepared for the worst and hoping for the best.

CHAENEY and I entered the store. There was a sales clerk standing inside the cash register platform area. I walked up to the sales clerk and asked, in a half serious and half joking manner, “Are you going to kick us out of the store?” To which I received, “No, can I help you find anything in particular?” I was relieved and happy. I said again, “Are you sure no one will kick me out of the store?” Once again the lady answered, “No.” Then I told her I had a military member and his Service Dog outside, and they were interested in looking at boots, but before I would let him come into the store I needed to know that they would be welcome. She assured me that they would be welcome and that she would welcome the opportunity to show him their boots. I then went back outside and told Buf that he and SALLY were welcome to come into the store, which they did.

We learned the sales clerk was named Belinda. She was very gracious and helpful. She escorted Buf and SALLY over to the “boot section,” and began to converse with Buf about the Navy and SALLY, while showing Buf many different pairs of boots.

As fifteen minutes passed, and Buf and Belinda were trying on pair after pair of boots, an elderly gentleman entered the retail area of the store through a door in the rear of the area. I recognized him as Mr. Robert Bryant. He explained that he was cutting the grass as I approached him. I introduced myself to him and we exchanged a friendly handshake.

As he approached me, CHAENEY, who had been laying on a rug on the floor, got up and approached Mr. Bryant, in an attempt to greet him (check him out – depending on who prospective you are viewing the situation from). Mr. Bryant rebuked CHAENEY’s approach, so CHAENEY deflected his attention to sniffing a rack of cowboy hats directly beside Mr. Bryant. Mr. Bryant cringed and asked me to not have CHAENEY sniff the hats. I directed CHAENEY to stop and to go back and lay down on the rug, which he did.

I then explained to Mr. Bryant that I was from the organization that trained ELLIE, Amanda’s Service Dog. At this point Mr. Bryant stated that he had no idea that there was a law that required him to let a dog into his store. He continued to say that we would now follow that law and that Service Dog like these dogs, (he pointed to CHAENEY) would be allowed in his store. I thanked Mr. Bryant for that realization on his part.

I then introduced him to Buf (who was on the other side of the rack of boots) and his Service Dog, SALLY. I told Mr. Bryant that Buf was an active-duty Navy Corpsman, with three combat tours in Iraq. Furthermore, that Buf had Complex-PTSD, TBI and Dissociative Amnesia. I related that the only reason Buf was able to come into his store was that SALLY was with him. I told Mr. Bryant about Buf not being able to go out into public before he began working with SALLY, and that--just like Amanda and ELLIE--Buf and SALLY were a team, that could therefore do things together that they would otherwise not be able to do, like shop.

At this point I noticed that Mr. Bryant’s eyes were beginning to “water up.” He spoke in a broken voice stating that he “had nothing but admiration for our servicemen.” He then excused himself and left through the door from which he entered.
Buf and SALLY continued looking for a pair of boots. Much to my joy, they finally found a pair – holy fright – boots costs that much?! Anyway Buf was happy and that’s all that mattered at the moment. As Belinda rang up the sale, Buf and SALLY demoed the “Pay Attention” command. This is where SALLY watches for people to approach Buf from behind him. When a person approaches too closely, (6-8 feet) SALLY will use her nose to nudge Buf’s leg, thus telling him that someone is approaching from behind him. Belinda and a couple of other customers in the store watched in amazement. We all left the store – telling Belinda that we would return the next time we were in Wilmington.

Final Thoughts:

Mr. Bryant is not a “dog” person. His lack of reaction to CHAENEY’s attempt to greet him proves this point – if this point needs to be proven. My suggestion is that every person with a Service Dog in the Wilmington area should pay a visit to the Western Store, thus providing Mr. Bryant with the “desensitization training” he needs to completely understand and appreciate the Service Dog. I will visit him every time I am in Wilmington, and the way our schedule is looking, that could be quite often.

Belinda is perhaps the best aspect of the Western Store. A true professional with a keen sense of customer service and appreciation – Mr. Bryant would do well to consider cutting the grass and letting Belinda run the store.

This situation has been a very important “teachable moment” for the Service Dog community. I wager that there are many more people out there like Mr. Bryant. I don’t need to wager – I know. Within the past three months paws4peopleTM Clients and trainers have experienced first-hand the very uncomfortable and extremely frustrating aftermaths of being challenged by or actually being denied access to public accommodations by persons as ignorant of the Service Dog access laws as Mr. Bryant. These were not small privately owned businesses, which even I can understand Mr. Bryant’s lack of knowledge about these laws. These were huge, publicly traded, international companies, owned by the likes of Wyndham Hotels and Choice Hotels. You would expect that companies of this size would have trained staff who would know the laws. So if large companies are ignorant of the laws, then small companies, without large corporate law staffs, can at least be cut some slack.

Here is where the ignorance becomes extremely harmful –

We spend months working with our Military Clients and their Psychiatric Service Dogs getting them ready to face their Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and/or Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) symptoms such as agoraphobia, environmentally-induced anxiety or panic attacks, etc. We work hard to build the confidence level between themselves and their dog. This training also includes how to handle treatment such as has been received by employees of Wyndham Hotels, Choice Hotels and yes, even the Western Store. However, no amount of training can prepare a person with agoraphobia, anxiety or panic attacks to handle that type of treatment, especially the arrogant, belligerent, condescending, nasty and mean, delivery of the “get that dog out of here” routine delivered by these people. Or the “you don’t look handicapped – what do you need a ‘Service Dog’ for. The harm which potentially could be inflicted on any person with a Service Dog by someone questioning them or denying them service or access could be catastrophic.

This is why EVERY act of ignorance needs to be taken seriously, and made into a teachable moment.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

WYATT removed from Service

WYATT Removed from Service

Terry Henry, The paws4vetsTM Advocate

Bruceton Mills, WV


Psychiatric Service Dog, WYATT, was removed from Service Dog Team Member Brandon G. on Saturday, March 6th, 2010.

WYATT was placed with Brandon G. at the paws4peopleTM November 2009 Graduation Ceremony, conducted at U.S. Penitentiary–Hazelton, Bruceton Mills, WV. Listed below are incidents that have occurred since graduation which have resulted in WYATT’s removal from the Team Member’s custody:

o Failure to provide proper veterinary care (e.g., no preventative medications have been administered since November (i.e., heartworm preventative and flea and tick preventative), vaccinations have expired (including rabies vaccination), overdue for annual check-up (e.g., heartworm check, leptospirosis check, fecal exam, etc.)
o Inadequate utilization of WYATT, subsequently leading to increased time that WYATT spends in his kennel
o Refusal to follow program requirements (e.g., blogging weekly after placement)
o Failure to complete required Public Access Training for Public Access Certification

WYATT’s next assignment is currently undetermined. When I make my decision regarding WYATT’s final placement, it will be made in the best interest of WYATT and paws4peopleTM / paws4vetsTM.

The safety and care of our dogs is of utmost importance to us. Although taking action to remove a dog from the custody of a Service Dog Team Member is extremely difficult and challenging, the necessary action must be taken when the dog’s well-being is in question.

I sincerely hope that this experience and its lessons will prevent a similar situation from occurring in the future.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Navy Hospital Camp LeJeune Clears the Way for Corpsman to Get His Psychiatric Service Dog

Terry Henry, The paws4vets Advocate
Jacksonville, NC

Click Here for printable version.

The Tuesday meeting was cordial, educational and graciously hosted by Captain Cox, Commanding Officer, U. S. Navy Hospital, Camp LeJeune. We discussed many topics -- some personal, many professional. We learned that all were gathered to put behind us the tumultuous last four months and to start anew in a “mutually” agreed to mission of getting HM2 Buf Kloppenborg his Psychiatric Service Dog, SALLY.

I was honored and proud to personally meet Captain Cox; Captain Aiyelawo, Executive Officer; Command Master Chief Terry Prince; and Mr. Raymond Applewhite, Public Affairs Officer. It was truly a pleasure to meet with four such distinguished military leaders with their knowledge, experience and number of years of dedicated service to our country. I was humbled.

paws4vets was represented by Ms. Kyria Henry, Deputy Executive Director, paws4people, and the Executive Director, paws4prisons. Also present were Mrs. Allison Kaminsky, Director, Medical Evaluation Team, paws4vets; and Mr. Brandon Gregory, Client Advocate, Medical Evaluation Team, paws4vets.

All participated in a lively and informative discussion centered around Psychiatric Service Dogs, including their application, role, training and capabilities. We discussed many issues involving the Navy and the ways in which Captain Cox, his Command, and the personnel on HM2 Kloppenborg’s Treatment Team could support the efforts the gain HM2 Kloppenborg his Psychiatric Service Dog.

The bottom line: HM2 Koloppenborg and SALLY are much closer to becoming a working Service Dog Team than they have ever been.

The following three mission-critical components were agreed to:

1. HM2 Kloppenborg will begin his transfer training on February 2, 2010 at FPC Alderson, Alderson WV. This is one of five U.S. Bureau of Prisons facilities that host the paws4prisons Assistance Dog Training Program. Here, SALLY and HM2 Kloppenborg will begin their transfer training. This training will be conducted under the auspices of the paws4vets’ Medical Evaluation Team and HM2 Kloppenborg’s U.S. Navy Medical/Psychiatric Treatment Teams. This training will take place over the next several months until the point in time where HM2 Kloppenborg and SALLY function together as a team and HM2 Kloppenborg can effectively utilize SALLY to re-integrate into society. HM2 Kloppenborg and SALLY’s transfer training will occur every two-to-four weeks, depending on the ability of HM2 Kloppenborg to cope with the stress and anxiety which will result from the public access training aspects of the transfer training syllabus.

2. HM2 Kloppenborg will be provided TAD orders to accomplish his transfer training requirements.

3. HM2 Kloppenborg’s medical and psychiatric treatment teams and the paws4vets Medical Evaluation Team will be able to collaborate completely and fully in support of HM2 Kloppenborg’s transfer training. In the future, such cooperation shall also be accomplished for each paws4vets Camp LeJeune client, whether Sailor or Marine.

We sincerely appreciate the opportunity we had to meet with the senior Command staff and for the opportunity to get to know and understand each other and each organization’s mission.

I sincerely hope that from the tumultuous beginnings, a new and mutually beneficial long-term relationship can be forged. Such will ensure that Captain Cox and myself, as we both progress through our remaining careers, can bring more Service Dogs with the benefits they bestow, to more Sailors and Marines.

I look forward to working with Captain Cox to make this relationship a reality.

P.S. A very special thanks to my two friends, Mr. Clay Rankin, AW2 Advocate, VA Medical Center, Clarksburg, WV; and Mr. Ed Salau, Charitable Organizations & VSO Program Coordinator, Wounded Warrior Battalion-East, Camp LeJeune. Without their support, friendship, and guidance, I could not have made it through the past few months, and especially the past two days. These guys are true American heroes, and I am honored to know them.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Failure to Comprehend

Follow-up to: Commanding Officer Prevents Navy Corpsman with TBI, PTSD and Dissociative Amnesia from Getting a Service Dog, 12/14/09

Terry Henry, The paws4vets Advocate
Round Hill, VA

Click Here for printable version

I have an overwhelming desire to refrain from responding to Captain Cox’s letter, dated December 24, 2009, (which was posted to this blog on January 9, 2010) for it may appear that I am engaging in a “tit-for-tat” with him. We are also about to meet face-to-face this coming Tuesday and there is a sense that to pour more fuel on the fire may be counterproductive to the ultimate goal of successfully placing a Psychiatric Service Dog with HM2 Kloppenborg. However, the “Assistance Dog Advocacy,” and the “Disabilities Advocacy” side of me compels me to respond to Captain Cox’s letter.
I cannot allow his obvious “Failure to Comprehend” to stand unchallenged.
Disclaimer: Before I go any further I to want to state, for the record, that I have an agenda. I want to place a Psychiatric Service Dog with HM2 Kloppenborg to improve the quality of his life and to possibly keep him from hurting someone. I also want to do everything I can to ensure that the next person who needs a Service Dog does not have to endure the ordeal that HM2 Kloppenborg has had to go through and is still going through. This being said, I will forego my personal desire to dissect and counter almost every line of Captain Cox’s letter and focus on 3 main areas of concern:
Failure to Comprehend 1: The “Quote”
Background: My first article began with the sentence; “Tell him to get a f * * k’n Shih Tzu and he can pet it when he’s sitting at home,” said the sharp, dismissive and flippant voice of U.S. Navy Captain, Gerard R. Cox, Commanding Officer, Naval Hospital Camp Lejeune, Jacksonville, NC.”
Referencing this sentence in his letter to me, Captain Cox states: “Moreover, your assertions that I used profanity and acted in a disdainful, dismissive manner are wholly false and inflammatory.”
The Captain does not dispute the content of the quote; he simply claims not to have used profanity or expressed the quote in a disdainful or a dismissive manner.
The Captain, clearly, DOES NOT recognize the level of INSULT and/or DISREPECT his comment delivers to every person with a working Service/Assistance Dog; people who depend on their dogs for their independence and recovery from various physical, psychiatric and/or emotional disabilities, as well as to those who dedicate their lives to providing these dogs to people with disabilities.
The Captain’s comment, with or without the use of profanity, is INSENSITIVE and DEMEANING to people with disabilities who have a Service Dog/Assistance Dog; while a very small “minority” constituency, they should still be respected. His comment is analogous to making a disparaging “minority” slur, comment, or analogy.
However, it is apparently acceptable in Captain Cox’s view, to disregard the value of a Service Dog. It is also apparently acceptable to disrespect the hundreds of Veterans and Active-duty Service Members who have to rely upon Service Dogs as having no medical, psychological, or emotional need for their Service Dog other than to have “something to pet.”
The use of profanity is simply an “exclamation point” to the comment. Whether it was used, as my reporting indicates, or whether it was not used, as Captain Cox claims, is a minor, irrelevant point. The content/meaning of the quote is what is important – not the adjectives and punctuation utilized to deliver the quote.
I have also discovered that one can often times learn more by analyzing what is not said versus what is said. The silence in Captain Cox’s letter regarding the assertions that “he has nothing but contempt and disdain for Mental Health” is quite telling. A reasonable person could conclude that only a person with less than total/complete respect for and/or understanding of Mental Health issues, such as PTSD, C-PTSD, TBI, etc. would be capable of uttering the “Shih Tzu” quote. The “Shih Tzu” quote would not have even formulated in the mind of a person with such respect and understanding, let alone come out of their mouth.
Failure to Comprehend 2: The “Gift”
The Psychiatric Service Dog HM2 Kloppenborg will be receiving does not come with a ribbon and a bow. It is not being given to him for his birthday or because someone in the paws4vets organization likes him. The dog is not being given to him because he is a combat veteran or a hero. HM2 Kloppenborg will be receiving SALLY, a certified, Psychiatric Service Dog, with full ADA public access certification, because SALLY is a highly trained and sophisticated therapeutic resource that is custom-trained to assist HM2 Kloppenborg with his specific psychiatric disabilities. In HM2 Kloppenborg’s case, SALLY is the only augmentative medical device that can provide him with the psychological and emotional benefits he needs; a fact that has been substantiated by his Navy medical treatment team.
SALLY will be placed with HM2 Kloppenborg under a Conditional Custody Agreement and, as such, will NEVER belong to HM2 Kloppenborg. Legally, SALLY will remain the property of the paws4people foundation. HM2 Kloppenborg will be allowed to use SALLY and benefit from her unique skill set for as long as he needs SALLY’s assistance. In exchange for SALLY’s services, HM2 Kloppenborg must maintain and care for SALLY, educate as many people as he can about SALLY’s role in his life, and (hopefully), his recovery from his psychological disabilities. He will be expected to assist other paws4vets Clients, Veterans or Active-duty Service members, when they get their Service Dogs. [Note: HM2 Kloppenborg and SALLY will not only serve the role of a paws4vets working Client/Dog Team, but also as a paws4vets Veterans’ Advocate and Service Dog Ambassador, educating others about the role of Psychiatric Service Dogs with military service members on behalf of paws4vets.]
There were numerous conversations with HM2 Kloppenborg’s medical treatment team, command officers, and senior non-commissioned officers, explaining that SALLY, would, in fact, NOT be considered a “gift” several weeks before Captain Cox claims to have become involved in the situation. There are many Active-duty Service members who have Service Dogs, including several serving at Camp LeJeune. If these Active-duty Service members have Service Dogs, then by Captain Cox’s logic, are they all in violation of “gift” rules and regulations???? When are their Service Dogs going to be taken away???? When are they going to be prosecuted for these violations???
And since when is there a situation within the Military where a Commander, or his Commander, etc., CANNOT get something done if they want it done??? Even the “gift” regulations can be waived if the appropriate level Commander wants them waived. It may take some work, but there is nothing that cannot be done within the Military if an appropriately motivated Commander wants it done. Getting an individual like HM2 Kloppenborg a Service Dog that may prevent him from hurting or killing someone sounds like a pretty good reason to remove obstacles – at least to me.
Failure to Comprehend 3: The “Definition of Prevent”
To date, the best known debate concerning the definition of a word is the infamous: “Well, I guess it depends on what the definition of ‘is’ is.” Now, the debate concerning a definition of a word can also be stated as: “Well, I guess it depends on what the definition of “prevent” is.” In my mind, the standard definition of “prevent” in fact, applies to this situation, as HM2 Kloppenborg still DOES NOT have his Service Dog, and it’s NOT because paws4vets is not ready to provide SALLY to HM2 Kloppenborg.
HM2 Kloppenborg is still trying to cross all of the “T”s and dot the “I”s. He has had personal leave denied, he has had convalescent leave denied, and he has had TAD orders denied. He has submitted request after request and justification after justification; he was even told, at one point that he was going to be discharged from the Navy within the next eight days so there was “no need to worry about it (the dog).” He has been told, on at least two occasions, that he would be allowed to travel to meet some potential Service Dogs, only to be denied those travel requests at the last minute.
I have talked with, answering an untold number of questions, numerous members of the Hospital staff including Doctors, Lead Petty Officers, Chiefs, Master Chiefs, Lieutenant Commanders, Commanders and Captains. Other members of the paws4vets staff have talked with Hospital staff including Doctors, Lead Petty Officers, Chiefs, Master Chiefs, Lieutenant Commanders, Commanders, and Captains, answering these same questions. Mr. Clay Rankin, AW2 Advocate, and an expert on Service Dogs within the military and the Veterans Administration, including their utilization and presence inside hospitals, has talked with Master Chiefs. All of these conversations were conducted trying to answer questions and concerns on the part of “the Hospital Command” as they related to HM2 Kloppenborg’s attempts to get his Service Dog. All of this activity took place between September and November 10th.
How long do you think it would be before HM2 Kloppenborg had SALLY permanently by his side if I were the Commanding Officer, U.S. Naval Hospital, Camp LeJeune, a Navy O-6, and gave the following order to my subordinate staff; “I want HM2 Kloppenborg to have his Service Dog as fast as humanly possible. Get those paws4vets people here for a meeting. I want the fastest timeline they can deliver. I want each of you to part the Red Sea if you have to in order to eliminate any/all bureaucratic roadblocks. HM2 Kloppenborg has waited long enough – get the problem fixed.” How long do you think it would take?
I still maintain that the title to my first article is correct. When the situation changes and merits a new title - I will write and title the article proclaiming the event and I will be one of the happiest individuals around.
If I have written too much to this point, you may stop reading – I must set the record straight on one more point:
Captain Cox made the following statement in his letter: “I regret that you did not agree to meet with me this week to discuss this information in person.”
Captain Cox has seriously and blatantly distorted the facts.
I was telephonically contacted and had conversations with Mr. Raymond Applewhite, the Public Affairs Officers (PAO) for the U.S Naval Hospital, Camp LeJeune, during the period of December 17-18. During these conversations Mr. Applewhite related that Captain Cox had expressed a desire to meet with me to discuss his perspective on the article and HM2 Kloppenborg’s situation. I explained to Mr. Applewhite that I was headquartered in Round Hill, VA, and that a trip to Camp LeJeune within the next week (Christmas week) would be impossible. I related to Mr. Applewhite that myself and our paws4vets team were planning on being at Camp LeJeune during the week of January 11-14, and that we would welcome the opportunity to meet with Captain Cox during that time period. Mr. Applewhite subsequently relayed that Captain Cox was made aware of the geographical situation, our travel restrictions for the week of December 21-24, and he informed Mr. Applewhite that he would meet with us while we were at Camp LeJeune during the January time period. Of course Captain Cox did not offer to travel to Northern Virginia to meet with me, during Christmas week, either – did he?
Update: I am still awaiting confirmation that HM2 Kloppenborg will be allowed to travel, on TAD orders, to West Virginia to begin his “official” transfer training with SALLY during the week of February 1-4.
So the saga continues.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Captain Cox's Letter Responding to My 12/14/09 Post

Captain Cox's letter, dated 12/24/09, post-marked 12/30/09, was received on 1/6/10. To read the entire, original text of Captain Cox's response, click here.*

*It is this blog's policy not to publish the letters, comments, or other correspondence of parties outside of paws4vets. In lieu, a link is provided to view the third party's publication if/when the editor of The paws4vetsADVOCATE deems necessary.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Commanding Officer Prevents Navy Corpsman with TBI, PTSD and Dissociative Amnesia from Getting a Service Dog

Terry Henry, The paws4vets Advocate
Jacksonville, NC

Click Here for printable version

“Tell him to get a f * * k’n Shih Tzu and he can pet it when he’s sitting at home,” said the sharp, dismissive and flippant voice of U.S. Navy Captain, Gerard R. Cox, Commanding Officer, Naval Hospital Camp Lejeune, Jacksonville, NC. This statement subsequently ended the second attempt by HM2 Kloppenborg’s psychological treatment team to place him on convalescent leave so that he could begin the process of obtaining a Psychiatric Service Dog. It also began the second period of deliberately inflicted psychological trauma HM2 Kloppenborg had to endure; caused, not by the Taliban, not by an al-Qaeda terrorist or an Iraqi militant, but by his own NAVY and his own Commanding Officer.

Hospital Corpsman, Petty Officer 2nd Class, Buf Kloppenborg is a true hero although the humble, highly decorated Combat Medic would never admit this himself. With 14 years of service in the U.S. Navy, three combat tours in Iraq, which resulted in TBI (Traumatic Brain Injury) and Complex-PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder), and countless other assignments; HM2 Kloppenborg is now confronting another diagnosis; Dissociative Amnesia. Between HM2 Kloppenborg’s return from his third combat tour in Iraq in October 2008 and again in late January, 2009, he underwent many turbulent and traumatic personal psychological events which culminated when he attended the funeral of a Marine; a close personal friend in Western North Carolina. ”I woke up on January 31, 2009 curled up in the back of my vehicle in a totally confused state of mind. I could not remember anything in my life after to 1994”, related Kloppenborg, “I thought I was 25 years old and I didn’t know what I was doing in North Carolina.” HM2 Kloppenborg was able to contact a friend from Denver he had known for over 20 years. With the help of this friend, Buf returned to Camp Lejeune, not remembering anything other than what his friend had told him about why he was returning. He followed his friend’s advice and instructions and checked himself into the U.S. Naval Hospital Camp Lejeune.

For the next several weeks Buf was a medical mystery. He was back at his duty station. He had supervised, reported to, and worked side-by-side with these people just days before, but he couldn’t remember anything or anyone. In fact, he couldn’t remember the past 14 years of his life. Buf does not remember his ex-wife or his children, his three combat tours in Iraq, or his other duty rotations. He has no recollection of his friends or the hundreds of Marines whose lives he has saved, or the injuries he has treated. HM2 Kloppenborg has Dissociative Amnesia; very simply stated, this is when a person blocks out a time period of their life that is frequently associated with a stressful or traumatic event. “Buf has an extreme case as his time period is quite substantial,” said Dr. (Commander) Rebecca Webster, USN, a member of Buf’s psychological treatment team. “Buf’s case is also quite unique in that his amnesia has lasted for such a long period of time,” continued Dr. Webster.

Buf is constantly approached by Marines who thank him for saving their lives or the life of one of their buddies. Buf has “old friends” who come up and engage him in conversations about events and people he should remember – but he does not.

Buf lives with the after effects of his TBI and Complex-PTSD due to events and injuries he does not remember. “Try answering questions in a therapy session about what happened to cause your PTSD symptoms when you can’t even remember being in the country, let alone the actual event that caused the injury. It’s very hard,” said Buf. His brother related that Buf’s injuries were the result of an IED explosion in Iraq.

Buf has an ever increasing fear of touching other people and of being touched. Of particular difficulty for him is being approached unknowingly from behind; the “Fight-or-Flight Response” immediately kicks in. Buf constantly has to “check his 6” to the point that, at times, it could be called an obsession. “I am very afraid of what I might do to a person if they were to surprise me by tapping me on the shoulder. I am very afraid that I might hurt someone. I don’t know how I would handle it if I hurt someone, so I pretty much try to stay away from people or situations where that might happen,” explained Buf. Buf has experienced the “Fight-or-Flight” response at the slightest brush of physical contact (i.e., a store clerk brushing his hand while giving him change).

Because of this fear, Buf is no longer able to provide treatment to patients which is what he loves to do. “I stay in an office and the other Corpsman comes in and consults with me about their patients.” “The Dissociative Amnesia (DA) has changed many aspects of my life,” Buf said, with a dejected tone in his voice.

Buf cannot function in crowds, (defined as more than two people). Any crowd has the potential to initiate an anxiety or panic attack. Therefore, Buf has developed the coping mechanism of shopping for his food at his “local-friendly corner convenience store” at 0300 in the morning and only if and when there are no other customers in the store.

Buf lives in the house that was his home. “I don’t remember anything about living here before. They told me it was my home, but I don’t remember it”, said Buf. Buf is very sensitive to having females or children around him, although he cannot explain why. “Having kids come running up to me is especially hard to deal with,” Buf advised.

Perhaps the most devastating aspect of Buf’s situation is his inability to remember his ex-wife and children, the death of his Mother, countless Sailors and Marines who should or could (now) be his friends and/or supporters, and the death of his favorite dog, WILLIE, who he still looks for when he awakens at night.

In August 2009, with the enthusiastic support of his medical treatment team, Dr. Sara Spar, Dr. Rebecca Webster, and his Command Master Chief, Terry Prince, HM2 Kloppenborg, applied for a Psychiatric Service Dog from the paws4vets program. “We had witnessed the incredible positive effects going on with the paws4vets PTSD Intervention Program and its process for obtaining a Psychiatric Service Dog and what positive results were being seen with one of our Marines, so we thought it would be very beneficial for Buf to do the same thing,” said Dr. Spar.

paws4vets is a program within the paws4people foundation ( The paws4people foundation privately places trained, certified and insured Assistance Dogs (AD) with individuals with physical, neurological, psychological and/or emotional disabilities, including civilians (generally adolescents under the age of fourteen) through its paws4people Assistance Dog Placement Program (p4pADPP) and with Veterans (active-duty military and/or their dependents) through its paws4vets ( Assistance Dog Placement Program (p4vADPP). All paws4people Assistance Dogs are trained by federal inmates within one of five federal prisons ( paws4people is also a member of the U.S. Army Wounded Warrior Program’s (AW2) Community Support Network.

HM2 Kloppenborg’s application was accepted by the paws4vets Application Committee in August 2009. Two dogs were identified within the p4vADPP as potential Psychiatric Services Dogs for him. “Buf’s Service Dog would need customized training; to “check Buf’s 6” and alert him to someone approaching him and then increase the alert level if someone tries to reach out to touch Buf,” said Mrs. Allison Kaminsky, Director, Medical Evaluation Team, paws4vets. “Our training team and the inmates have Service Dogs doing just about everything you can think of, including retrieving laser-designated items, relieving themselves on command and on “piddle-pads” to facilitate long airplane flights, and waking Client’s during nightmares, but Buf presented with a unique skill set requirement.”

Within days, SALLY, a 22 month-old Yellow Labrador Retriever, and a Certified, Public Access, Service Dog began her customized training protocols under the guidance of Mrs. Karen Owens, paws4prisons Chief Trainer, Federal Prison Camp, Alderson, Alderson, WV. SALLY began her training of the command; PAY ATTENTION. The PAY ATTENTION command will have SALLY sitting at her handler’s left or right side facing backwards to the handler. [Sally’s handler is the person she is in essence working for. Her handlers are her trainers right now, but could be Buf in the future.]

SALLY then observes people as they move around behind her handler. If a person comes within 5-8 feet of the handler, SALLY will use her nose to “nudge alert” the handler’s hand or leg. If the person continues toward her handler, and begins to reach out to touch her handler, SALLY will “bark alert.” SALLY also began her customized training to learn how to awaken her handler should he/she experience a nightmare or flashback while they are sleeping. Simultaneously, JAKE, an 18 month-old Black Labrador Retriever, a Service Dog In-Training, began the identical training protocols under the tutelage of Ms. Heidi Livengood, Chief Trainer, paws4prsions, Federal Prison Camp Hazelton, U.S. Penitentiary Hazelton, Bruceton Mills, WV.

paws4vets began coordinating schedules with Buf’s Command and with the prison in order to place Buf on Temporary Active Duty (TAD) orders or convalescent leave so that he could travel to Alderson and Bruceton Mills, WV to visit the paws4prisons training facilities and meet both potential Service Dogs. The process to gain Buf’s security clearance for entry into the federal prisons was obtained. On September 9, 2009, everything was set for Buf to begin the process of obtaining his Psychiatric Service Dog.. The day before Buf was scheduled to leave Camp Lejeune he was informed that “somewhere up the Chain-of-Command” his orders were denied and that he would not be able to visit the dogs. There were questions raised regarding the Service Dog being considered a gift and the fact that paws4people/paws4vets was not officially affiliated with the Navy. Needless to say, Buf was completely disappointed; he felt betrayed by his Command, which subsequently led to escalation of his symptoms, including increased stress, anxiety, and depression.

During the next two weeks Buf experienced his worst fear. On two occasions an individual came up from behind Buf and touched him on the shoulder to simply get his attention. Both individuals were old friends who were not aware of Buf’s situation. They were simply glad to see him and neither had malicious intent. Buf experienced the Fight-or-Flight response during both events; he felt the need to protect himself. In both cases Buf was able to control his reaction at the last possible second. “Both of those people are extremely lucky Buf was able to have controlled his reaction,” said Ms. Kyria Henry, Founder and Deputy Executive Director, paws4people and Executive Director, paws4prisons. “What would have happened to Buf if his control would have been just a little slower and he had actually assaulted either or both of those people? He would be in jail. We have a Service Dog for him that would prevent such an occurrence from happening. I wonder how his “Command” would have felt then?”

“These two events have only caused all of us at paws4vets and paws4prisons to double our efforts on Buf’s behalf,” said Mrs. Kaminsky, “We have made phone calls and sent emails; to anyone and everyone that we can think of in order to get someone, somewhere to help Buf obtain the permission he needs to start his Service Dog selection and placement process.” Buf said that if he had hurt either of his friends that he “could never forgive himself.” Buf then requested to take personal leave in order to meet the dogs, however, his request was denied by his Unit Commander, Commander Buchanan, because he knew where Buf planned to go during his personal leave - and he knew his boss was against it.

“One of the people we sought assistance from for Buf was Clay Rankin,” said Mrs. Kaminsky. Clay Rankin (medically retired MSgt. Clay Rankin, USA, is an Advocate for the U.S. Army Wounded Warrior Program (AW2)). Clay, as a result of injuries received in Iraq, is best known by his permanent sidekick; ARCHIE. ARCHIE is a Service Dog; a Black Labrador Retriever that has been Clay’s constant alter-ego for the past 6 years. ARCHIE enables Clay to walk, travel and conduct his life with minimal limitations. “He’s also helped me battle PTSD and depression,” added Clay. ARCHIE was recently named the ASPCA’s Service Dog of the Year for 20091. Clay works everyday in one of three VA Medical Centers with ARCHIE by his side. Clay also serves as the Army’s AW2 Single Point of Contact for Service Dog Placement. Clay contacted and spoke extensively with Command Master Chief, Terry Prince, Naval Hospital Camp Lejeune. Clay and Master Chief Prince discussed the ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act), and the VA (Veterans Affairs) and DOD (Department of Defense) laws, rules and regulations regarding the placement, use and utilization of Service Dogs within a hospital environment and countless other topics. Mr. Rankin requested that his conversation be conveyed by Master Chief Prince to the Commander, Naval Hospital Camp Lejeune.

Weeks passed while Buf’s emotional well-being diminished. On November 6th, all indications were made that Buf would be allowed to take personal leave if paws4vets would pay for Buf’s travel expenses provided those expenses did not exceed $1,000.00. Buf’s Command would allow him to travel to West Virginia to begin the Service Dog selection process, on November 8th. A paws4vets volunteer was dispatched to Jacksonville, NC. At approximately 1500 on November 7th, Buf called the volunteer to inform him that he had just been told that his personal leave had been denied by order of the Hospital Commander. He told the volunteer that he was “very sorry to have wasted his time” with such a tone of despair and anger that the volunteer was concerned for Buf’s well-being.

In the hours that followed Captain Cox’s orders, Buf’s Mental Health treatment team scrambled to ensure that he was immediately cared for as they recognized the possibility of the emotional toll Captain Cox’s decision would have on Buf’s emotional well-being. One would have to question whether Captain Cox supports the Hippocratic Oath because his decision to deny HM2 Kloppenborg convalescent leave and subsequently personal leave was going to cause considerable emotional distress to Buf, a Sailor, AND a patient under his Command.

Several members of Buf’s treatment team and enlisted advisors within the command courageously, (without regard for potentially damaging repercussions to their careers) attempted to counsel Captain Cox in order to change his mind regarding Buf’s personal leave. Captain Gerard Cox, reiterated his denial of HM2 Kloppenborg’s request to take personal leave. Sources revealed that “Captain Cox is an ER doctor; he has nothing but contempt and disdain for Mental Health.” “Captain Cox has the opinion that if he allows one person in the hospital to get a dog, then he will have dogs running all around the hospital sooner or later.” Captain Cox’s statement; “Tell him to get a f * * k’n Shih Tzu and he can pet it when he’s sitting at home,” adequately communicates the Captain’s complete lack of knowledge and ignorance regarding the medically recognized value afforded a patient by an Assistance Dog, or it may be further evidence of the Captain’s “contempt and disdain for anything Mental Health,” maybe both.

A Service Dog is a highly trained and sophisticated therapeutic resource that is custom trained to assist their handler with physical and/or psychiatric disabilities. For those with physical disabilities, the dog can be viewed as an augmentative medical device which provides its handler with not only physical benefits, such as a balance, mobility (i.e., pulling a wheelchair), and picking up and retrieving objects, but also with, psychological and emotional benefits that no other device can deliver. Could you imagine Captain Cox denying a patient a wheelchair, a prosthetic arm or leg, a shunt, or a respirator? And if he did attempt to deny the utilization of one of these commonly accepted augmentative medical devices, could you imagine the public outcry that would result from such a Neanderthal decision?

Where is the public outcry for denying a Service Dog to a patient?

The benefits of a Service Dog may also be viewed as an adjunct therapy, in terms of Animal-Assisted Therapy, when addressing a patient’s treatment/recovery intervention plan. For those with psychiatric disabilities, a Service Dog can provide the emotional support a person needs in order to be able to function in society by providing environmental assessments or “alerting” behaviors for their handlers. These dogs also foster feelings of safety and acceptance, provide a sense of purpose, and allow people to forget their pain and limitations by focusing outward. The benefits of animal-assisted therapy often times surpass the benefits of prescription medication.

“You know the really ironic thing?” said a Sailor who did not want his name used, “Right across the parking lot, in the WWB (Wounded Warrior Battalion) there is a Marine with a Service Dog and there is supposed to be another Marine getting one2.. What’s he (the Hospital Commander) going to do when they have to come to the hospital for treatment? Kick the dogs out?” According to this same Sailor, the Commanding General, Camp Lejeune, has an “administrative-type” within his Command suite that has a Service Dog.

It was discovered that “Safe Harbor,” a program out of the Vice Chief of Naval Operations’ Office, was made aware of Buf’s difficulties.

Between November 30 and December 3, 2009, conversations were conducted between Chief Hellman and Mrs. Kaminsky, in which it was disclosed that Buf’s most recent request for personal leave would be granted. Buf would be allowed to travel to the paws4prisons training facilities and begin the process of obtaining his Service Dog. In order for Buf to travel, it was requested that paws4people pay for Buf’s travel expenses. As of December 4, 2009, Buf advised the paws4vets staff that his request for “personal leave” was granted and that he would be leaving Camp Lejeune on Monday, December 7th. Buf further related that he had been told that since he was in “non-deployable” status, he was going to be medically discharged from the Navy, and that this process was going to be “fast-tracked” (to take place within the next 90 days). Buf also related that there were conditions placed on his travel; he was not allowed to tell anyone that he was in the Navy or that he was a Corpsman. It had also been suggested that he tell paws4vets to remove his profile from their web site.

As a point of information; the process of obtaining a Service Dog from paws4vets, for someone like Buf, usually takes between 3-6 months. This fact was explained to Buf’s Command when he submitted his application in August 2009. If events take their pre-described courses of action, Buf will be discharged from the Navy before he receives his Service Dog. Does anyone see the plan of action being plotted by the Commander of the Naval Hospital Camp Lejeune?

Parting questions:
Does Buf want to be discharged from the Navy?
Does anyone care what Buf wants?
Is this the way we (as a society) want our heroes to be treated?
Does any U.S. Navy parent want their son or daughter serving under the command of Captain Gerard R. Cox?

© 2009, paws4people, All Rights Reserved.

Disclosure: The author, Terry Henry is the Executive Director, paws4people and the Executive Director, paws4vets. He is a Veteran and has been living with the effects of Complex-PTSD for the past 24 years.

1. ARCHIE passed away two weeks after he received his Service Dog of the Year Award. All of us at paws4people, paws4prisons and paws4vets extend our deepest sympathies to Clay for his loss. We also wish ARCHIE a fond farewell, as he exemplified every aspect of service and loyalty a Service Dog should have. We are dedicated to training and placing Assistance Dogs that even ARCHIE would be proud of.

2. The individual this source was referring to is Sgt. Paul Martin, USMC, Wounded Warrior Battalion – East, Camp Lejeune. Sgt. Martin is a Client of paws4vets and is in the process of obtaining his Psychiatric Service Dog; LIA. LIA and Sgt. Martin should be permanently teamed together in January 2010. Preparations are underway for LIA to transfer to Camp Lejeune to begin her service with Sgt. Martin.

To learn more about HM2 Kloppenborg, click here:

To help HM2 Kloppenborg help other active-duty military and/or Veterans receive an Assistance Dog, click here:

To learn more about paws4vets, click here:

To help paws4vets acquire, train and place more Assistance Dogs, click here:

Friday, December 11, 2009

Revolutionary PTSD Intervention Program Helps Marine Erase PTSD, TBI Symptoms

Terry Henry, The paws4vets Advocate
Morgantown, WV
For Printable Version, Click Here

April 2009; Meet Sgt. Paul Martin, USMC. Kyria, the Founder and Deputy Executive Director, paws4people and the Executive Director, paws4prisons further recounted the visit; “Paul sat in a chair across from me, he avoided eye contact, he stared at the ground and maybe once answered a question with more than one word – it was surreal.” During the hour-long interview it was learned the Sgt. Martin had been at VA Martinsburg for a little over three months, had not done very well during his first three-month PTSD Therapy Counseling Program, and was in the process of re-taking the course. He was on a “cocktail” of six or seven different medications, spent most of his time thinking about his combat experiences, having auditory hallucinations, was extremely depressed and didn’t like his counseling sessions. The only diversion he had was TV and he didn’t like it much. He was “stuck” in the hospital since he didn’t have a car and even if he did he could not drive due to the medications he was taking. “I remember walking away from that experience saying – “I don’t know if he is ready to take care of a dog, I don’t know how much it will help,” Kyria said. To which, Terry Henry, Executive Director, paws4vets, said back to her, “That’s exactly what Paul needs.”

Fast-forward, November 2009; Meet Sgt. Paul Martin, USMC: “I am doing GREAT – for the first time since I got back (from his last tour in Iraq) I have gone a week without any symptoms – it’s wonderful and it’s all because of her,” said Sgt. Paul Martin, as he patted LIA, his future Psychiatric Service Dog on her head. “If it wasn’t for her I’d still be back at the Battalion eating all of those pills,” Paul continued. Sgt. Martin had just finished his third week of transfer training with LIA, a 20-month-old Black Labrador Retriever. Paul was sitting in a crowded restaurant with LIA at his feet. Paul was smiling, laughing, at times, and carrying on a conversation with the other four people at the table. “He’s like a totally a different person, if I hadn’t witnessed his transformation over the past four months there is NO way I would have ever believed it possible,” said Heidi Livengood, Chief Trainer, paws4prisons, USP Hazelton. The paws4prisons training facility in Bruceton Mills, WV is where Paul and LIA are going through their transfer training. Paul further described the adventures he and LIA had had during the week. They had visited a second grade classroom and he and LIA had read to the children. They had visited a Cub Scout Pack meeting where he told the Cub Scouts about LIA and answered “hundreds” of questions about being a Marine. He and LIA had visited a state park and had hiked for hours through the woods. “You know – I surprised myself by having so much fun – it’s been a long time,“ said Paul. When asked if he thought he would ever be able to talk in front of a group of kids like he did, he simply answered, “No, but I can do anything with LIA.”

Sgt. Martin’s Story: Paul Martin was eighteen when he enlisted in the Marines in 2003. Sgt. Martin has served three combat tours, in 2004-2005 (7 months), 2005-2006 (6 months) and 2007 (7 months). “I spent my three deployments in some of the roughest places in Iraq and lost a lot. During my first deployment, I lost my squad leader, Sgt. J.D. Patterson; he was a father figure to me. He made me the man I am today. He was taken from us on January 15th, 2005; I struggle with his death every day,” related Paul. “Since my first deployment, I have been dealing with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). I suffer from flashbacks, nightmares, auditory hallucinations, environmentally induced anxiety and anxiety/panic attacks, depression, agoraphobia and extreme survivor guilt. I have attempted suicide three times due to my bewildering symptoms. Due to my symptoms and their frequency, I have had trouble making and keeping friends and experience a lot of stress in relationships.”

Sgt. Martin was eventually transferred to the Wounded Warrior Battalion - East at Camp Lejeune, NC, in order to concentrate on the treatment of his PTSD. Since his assignment to the WWB, he has participated in many different treatment programs and protocols. In January 2009, he was transferred to the PTSD Center at the VA Medical Center (VAMC) – Martinsburg, in Martinsburg, WV. Here he spent five-and-one-half months. During his treatment at VAMC Martinsburg, Paul realized that he needed additional help in coping with and managing my PTSD symptoms. “Thanks to the encouragement and help of my Case Manger at Camp Lejeune, I started researching Service Dog Placement for Veterans with PTSD and found paws4vets,” said Paul.

Sgt. Martin submitted an application, was interviewed at VAMC Martinsburg and was subsequently accepted as a paws4vets Client to receive a Psychiatric Service Dog.

paws4vets has its own capability to link with its Client’s medical and psychological treatment teams,” said Mrs. Allison Kaminsky, B.S.N, R.N., Director, Medical Evaluation Team (MET), paws4vets. “This unique capability allows paws4vets to more completely understand our Client’s needs and limitations. It allows us the ability to customize not only their transfer training required to master the skills to effectively utilize their new Service Dog; but it also allows us the ability to leverage that dog’s motivational capabilities to the benefit of the Client and their interaction(s) with their VA or Military medical and/or psychological treatment teams,” continued Allison.

Through this collaborative effort, Sgt. Martin’s medical and psychological treatment protocols and methodologies at Camp Lejeune were modified such that his compliance and participation earned him the ability to visit LIA in WV. Simple and -- in Sgt. Martin’s case -- very effective.

Sgt. Martin first met LIA during his first visit to the paws4prisons K-9 Training Facility at the Federal Prison Camp, U. S. Penitentiary Hazelton, Bruceton Mills, WV. paws4prisons, like paws4vets are programs which are part of the paws4people foundation ( The paws4people foundation privately places trained, certified and insured Assistance Dogs (AD) with persons with disabilities. These dogs are placed with individuals with physical, neurological, psychological and/or emotional disabilities. The paws4people foundation places Assistance Dogs with civilians (generally adolescents under the age of fourteen) through it paws4people Assistance Dog Placement Program (p4pADPP) and with Veterans, active-duty military and/or their dependants through its paws4vets ( Assistance Dog Placement Program (p4vADPP). All paws4people Assistance Dogs are trained by federal inmates within one of five federal prisons ( paws4people is also a member of the U.S. Army Wounded Warrior Program’s (AW2) Community Support Network.

Sgt. Martin’s first visit took place during the last days of his stay at VAMC Martinsburg. Paul was completely under the influence of his “cocktail.” He was able to spend about an hour meeting and interacting with LIA. “The first time I met LIA was only for a few minutes but I recall being asked if I liked LIA and I said “No, I love her,” recounts Paul, “I felt a bond with LIA immediately.”

Sgt. Martin returned to the WWB at Camp Lejeune and within a week attempted suicide for the third time. This of course landed Sgt. Martin in the Psychiatric Ward at the Naval Hospital Camp Lejeune -- the exact place he did not want to be. During the subsequent teleconference meetings between the paws4vets MET and Sgt. Martin’s Camp Lejeune medical and psychological treatment team, it was decided to try the following strategy with Sgt. Martin: Sgt. Martin was to be told, by his Camp Lejeune treatment team, that if he abided by all of his treatment teams’ requests and did not try to commit suicide again during the next three weeks, he would be allowed to go to West Virginia to visit LIA. The paws4vets MET would send staff to Camp Lejeune who would meet with Sgt. Martin and in essence tell him the same thing, thus reinforcing the treatment strategy. Sgt. Martin not only met the requirements of this treatment strategy, he exceeded the expectations of both treatment teams.

Sgt. Martin’s TAD orders were issued and accompanied by his mother (who drove Paul, since Paul could not drive himself due to the medications he was taking) they arrived in Morgantown in late August 2009. Under the tutelage of the paws4prisons staff -- Kyria Henry and Heidi Livengood -- Paul was re-introduced to LIA and over the proceeding week was taught the art and skill of Assistance Dog handling. He began to learn LIA’s language and her 100+ commands. He learned to handle her in the seclusion of his hotel room and its parking lot and then watched Kyria and Heidi as they handled LIA in public venues such as restaurants, retail stores and a movie theater. “After spending a week with LIA and the staff of paws4vets, I have a new found sense of purpose as well as something to look forward to being involved with,” said Paul, “With someone to keep me moving and proactive, like LIA, I know that my life and the quality of my life are going to be up and on the rise.”

Paul was sent back to Camp Lejeune with very simple instructions (which were pre-approved via coordination between the paws4vets MET and Sgt. Martin’s Camp Lejeune treatment team). His instructions were: Cooperate completely and enthusiastically with your Camp Lejeune treatment team, try to decrease your meds, and don’t try to commit suicide during the next three-four weeks. Accomplish this, and you can come back for your second week of transfer training with LIA.

Well, Sgt. Martin once again surprised both treatment teams and exceeded expectations. Sgt. Martin was once again issued TAD orders and returned to Morgantown in early October for his second week of transfer training with LIA. He was re-introduced to handling LIA under the watchful eyes of Kyria and Heidi. On the second day Paul was told to take LIA to the local WalMart by himself. Unknown to him, others were watching just in case. Paul and LIA proceeded to have a wonderful time walking up and down the aisles. Paul reported that after a few minutes of indecision on LIA’s part, he was able to refocus her attention and she worked perfectly for him the rest of his visit. Paul seemed quite pleased with himself and LIA. Paul worked the rest of the week alone with LIA, taking her to stores, walks on downtown streets, to restaurants, parks, malls, etc. His confidence and personality both seemed to grow and return. At the end of the week, Sgt. Martin received the same instructions (under the same auspices) as he had at the end of his previous training session with LIA: Cooperate completely and enthusiastically with your Camp Lejeune treatment team, try to decrease your meds, and don’t try to commit suicide during the next three-four weeks. Accomplish this and you can come back for your third week of transfer training with LIA.

The month at Camp Lejeune can only be described as incredible. Sgt. Martin was like a “new” person, commented several of his treatment team. He significantly reduced his medications, with his treatment team’s guidance and approval. He was provided with TAD orders this time for both VA and WV. LIA was transferred from WV to the paws4vets offices just outside Leesburg, VA.

“I simply could not believe my eyes,” said Allison Kaminsky, “he was driving a car.” Paul met Allison for a day of training which consisted of visiting an elementary school and a Cub Scout Pack. “It simply warmed my heart when I saw Paul and LIA reunited, it was something quite special,” remembered Allison. Paul related to Allison that he was off his medications with the exception of sleep aids, and only if he needed them. “He was full of life, talked and talked, and you should have seen him with the kids!” she said. Paul visited Hillsboro Elementary School, Hillsboro, VA, where he and LIA read to the students of a second grade class. “I was so proud of LIA,” said Paul, after the reading session was completed. Later that day after taking LIA to the outlet mall, Paul and LIA visited Cub Scout Pack 961, Den 8 at the Round Hill Elementary School, Round Hill, VA. Here Paul and LIA were the “stars” of the show, and Paul displayed untold patience as he answered “hundreds” of questions from the Cub Scouts about LIA and being a Marine. It was an experience that neither the Cub Scouts not Paul will soon forget.

Paul and LIA then transited to Morgantown where he was one of five guests-of-honor at a dinner hosted by the paws4prisons training staff. Paul and LIA sat in a very crowded restaurant at a table with 30+ other people and engaged in conversation, laughing and smiling the whole time. Afterwards, when asked if he would have been able to attend such a dinner a few months ago, Paul replied, “I could not have done it without LIA by my side, but we did it and I had a good time.”

Paul and LIA are currently scheduled for their fifth and final transfer training week in Morgantown beginning December 7th. Outside of a few interactions with paws4prisons training staff he and LIA will actually be on their own for most of the week (except for “secret” checks by trainers along the way).

Shortly after the new year, and as soon as the WWB East schedules Paul’s “home visit” and Command briefing LIA will be transferred to Camp Lejeune to begin what is hoped to be a long and successful working relationship with Sgt. Paul Martin, USCM.

© 2009, paws4people, All Rights Reserved.

Disclosure: The author, Terry Henry is the Executive Director, paws4people and the Executive Director, paws4vets. He is a Veteran and has been living with the effects of Complex-PTSD for the past 24 years.

To learn more about Sgt. Martin, click here:

To help Sgt. Martin help other active-duty military and/or Veterans receive an Assistance Dog, click here:

To learn more about paws4vetsTM, click here:

To help paws4vetsTM acquire, train and place more Assistance Dogs, click here: