I just read in the New York Times about a program that matches service dogs to war veterans with PTSD. The dogs are trained by imprisoned convicts in a separate program called Puppies Behind Bars.
I’ve loved dogs from the time I was a very small child. I used to nap as a three-year-old with my head on the belly of Jake, our long-suffering and extraordinarily gentle boxer. As the years passed, we had a poodle, Boston terriers Hector and Albert, and boxers Pete and Mugs. I moved away from home, joined the Air Force, and missed my four-legged companions fiercely.
But it wasn’t long before I had dogs again. There was Annie, a miniature dachshund. Greta, a mutt-mix of pug and who-knows-what. Max, the wire-haired dachshund. Nessie, a rescued Lab/Doberman mix, the sweetest-natured dog I’ve ever known, apart from my current lil’ buddy, Finny McCool. There’s Logan, a Queensland heeler/border collie mix, the other dog who is still an integral part of my family. And there was my parent’s compassionate, funny old boxer Mugs, the second with that goofy name, who died of old age just last year.
Mugs helped my father recover after his last heart surgery. As Dad walked slowly and precariously along the back deck, building his strength back up, Mugs walked along with him. Back and forth, back and forth. When Dad died eight years later, Mugs became my Mom’s closest companion, her friend, and her living link to sweet memories of her late husband. He brought her through the devastation of grief, showing her as much, if not more devotion as he had my Dad, right up to last day of his life.
All of these Good Dogs have cumulatively given me a half-century of love, joy and laughter. I cannot imagine how much less full my life might have been without them.
And now, to read that other good-hearted, loving dogs help men who have faced and still face years of their lives locked up in prison makes me misty-eyed.
But that these same men are training these dogs to help veterans who have been injured in mind and body in war, who have given their youths and the best, most productive parts of their lives to serve their country, who are broken, changed and in need their love and devotion makes me bawl.
Please read the story. And be sure to watch the video linked in the sidebar.