Illness that is of a chronic nature has a huge impact on individuals separately, as well as within the context of family systems. Health care systems, being “systems”, have an inability to care for patients on an individual basis. While systems managed health care, impersonal by nature is promoted as cost effective, it increases costs in the long run by not holistically treating the client. Impersonal health care adds to the disassociation patients often experience; for the ill body/mind and subsequent new family/life dynamic, the medical profession, and the possibilities of wellness.
In 1990 I worked with Bear, a 38 year old womyn who had a late stage mastectomy. She was dealing with issues of an altered body, of thoughts of death, her children being motherless, things left undone. During a 10 day group movement based expressive arts residential retreat, she took the opportunity to explore some of these issues. One of her expressions was in the form of a healing ritual. Most of the group stood on one side of a pond, singing the gospel hymn, “Wade on the water”. On the other side, Bear was carried down to the waters edge, wrapped in a blanket, and left there, standing, still wrapped. She slowly undid the blanket and waded into the water, slowly swimming to the other side, where, like a chorus of angels we waited, still singing.
Bear engaged in a method of emotional healing that falls, far, from the “systems” method of health care. Her methodology embraced her needs, hopes and fears in a manner that can only be facilitated in an open, accepting, creative and supportive atmosphere. The waves that she stirred that day in the pond are still going, still rippling outwards, deeply and profoundly on all those who witnessed her wade in the water.
The Pets for Vets program is dedicated to supporting veterans and providing a second chance for shelter pets by rescuing, training and pairing them with America’s veterans who could benefit from a companion animal.
The Pets… 3 to 4 million dogs and cats are euthanized each year. These animals can make excellent companion animals but never have that chance. Our dedicated animal trainers will evaluate and rescue the shelter animals and provide additional training to ensure that they are able to assimilate into a home, which is quite different from a shelter environment.
The Vets… Sadly, there are alarming statistics of suicide, family abuse and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder facing veterans returning to civilian life after military duty. This can cause a downward spiral of apathy, unemployment, broken relationships, addiction and depression. It is our belief that companion animals can be the life saving therapy or friend that many returning service men and women need
Medical studies have shown that companion animals significantly improve mental and physical health, including reducing stress, depression and anxiety, symptoms experienced by many serving in the military.
The Pets for Vets team interviews each veteran to ascertain what he or she is looking for in a companion animal; we pair this with his or her personality and lifestyle to make the perfect veteran-pet match. Once the perfect pet is selected for the veteran, the pet spends time in the home of one of our trainers who teaches the pet basic obedience and other valuable behaviors needed to live with his/her new owner. This can include becoming comfortable with wheel chairs or behaviors needed to help with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI).
Veterans who have a condition that could benefit from a trained companion animal and who are able to care for a pet, are eligible to receive a Pets for Vets companion animal.
From the NPR series, What’s in a song:
For the past several years, a group of friends has gathered every week in the living room of a suburban home in Logan, Utah, to sing long-forgotten songs. It’s a fun way to spend the evening, but it’s also therapy for a dear friend.
Until several years ago, Barre Toelken was a folklorist at Utah State University. He’d spent much of his life preserving sea shanties and other antique songs, but then he had a stroke and was forced to retire.
“I used to know 800 songs,” Toelken says. “I had this stroke, and I had none of these songs left in my head. None of them were left.”
But, Toelken says, he soon discovered that, with a little positive reinforcement, he could remember some of the forgotten music after all.
“A little bit at a time, I realized I still had the songs in my head,” he says. “So now I meet with this group of friends once a week a week, and we sing.
“This group doesn’t use any musical instruments, because I can’t play the guitar since the stroke hit me,” Toelken says. “And they did that as a sign of respect, I think. But they’ve all said how much they’ve learned about the songs since they quit using the guitar because instead of concentrating on their hand moving, they have to concentrate on the words.”
Hear the story.