Captain James Van Thach was wounded twice in the line of duty in Iraq. Vincent Ficarrotta was born with a condition that results in stiff joints and abnormally developed muscles. Jeff Brosi is paralyzed from the waist down. These men each received a dog from Canine Companions for Independence.
Lamby doesn't understand psychiatry, but he understands how to treat psychiatric symptoms. He might not look like a service dog; even when wearing his bright blue working dog vest, he looks more like a circus performer. But his skills are undeniable.
Though not every dog (or cat!) can sniff out life's dangers for us, every pet deserves the best protection. The choice between your family's best friend and your budget is one you should never have to make.
While some may claim dogs don't understand dangerous situations, they are trained to know when there is danger and they are trained to run toward the danger to do their job. Surely, they are deserving of one night on the red carpet.
At 90, you'd think that I might be looking back -- thinking about my own days as a veteran after being freed from a Nazi POW camp, growing my career and raising my family, and of the honors I've received. And of course, all this does mean a lot to me. But the truth is I'm looking forward.
Two special guys are in my life: my dogs, Festus and Cyrus. Festus is a three-legged pit bull/Rottweiler. Cyrus is a tiny terrier born without front legs. These dogs are my greatest teachers. Here are some of the simple lessons that I have learned from them.
We want to see hundreds more dogs properly trained to treat the veterans still returning from the Middle East. We want each and every single one of our troops to have a shot at living a happy and fulfilling life back home.
This Memorial Day, we pay tribute to those who have fought, and fallen, for their country. We also pay tribute to those still fighting. For a lucky few, their lives will be changed by the constant companion, friend, and therapist that a service dog is for a veteran returning from war.
Having seen the profound impact these dogs make on the lives of men and women who have sacrificed so much for their country, I can tell you that it's all worth it -- and then some. And, by the way, the dogs love it too.
No doubt, painkillers are often an absolute necessity to veterans suffering from excruciating and debilitating pain. But even in these cases, we need to go further in offering substantive, long-term treatments that will help veterans return to their lives and fulfill their dreams.
Our returning soldiers have sacrificed a lot for their country. As they return home, they need our appreciation and profound respect. This begins with getting better, and for so many, that begins with a dog.