Hello all. I know it has been a long time since we posted. Haven’t had internet here until recently. Sally and I have been busy since we were retired. Susan and Dan Ivancevich had a piece of property here in Burgaw, NC that Sally and I have been working on to get developed into a horse farm. 500+ fence posts, a couple of snow storms (when we first moved down here), some rain (again when we first moved down here), and some long days and there is now a farm where there once was only a hay field. Sally has been doing great. She has quite a fan base in Burgaw, and of course whenever we make a trip to the big town of Jacksonville, or Camp Lejeune, we spend half of the time running around seeing her fans there. A month ago we were asked, by our Active Duty Psychiatrist, to go to Lejeune and do a presentation to the Sergeant Majors from 2nd Marine Division. She wanted them to see a “Real Psychiatric Service Dog”. Sally did an outstanding job and the SgtMaj’s really seemed to have a better understanding of what a real Service dog could do for a service member. They all commented on how Sally was soo laid back thru the entire presentation. Some also commented on how she would lay at my feet and then nuzzle me and make me pet her off and on. They were amazed when I told them she was assisting me with my anxiety at those times. “She can really sense that?” I was asked more than once. Yes and by her reminding me to pet her allows me to refocus from the external stimuli to her and to relax. I think by the time we left there was a better understanding and appreciation for what a “Real Service Dog” is.
We have had our share of ups and downs out here on the farm including one major relapse. We went to one of our VA appointments, our third appointment and our third Doctor. This Doctor came out to call us back for the appointment. When Sally and I stood up, she turned and told me that I could not come back to my appointment with my dog. To say I was shocked is an understatement! I told the Doctor that Sally was my Service Dog but she said she didn’t care, she would not see us. All of this happened in the waiting area of the clinic in front of other Vets. I told her that according to the ADA Sally is allowed to come with me and she still didn’t want to let us back. Finally she agreed to see us, after a nurse stated that where Sally is a Service Dog the Doc had to let me bring her. Upon entering the Doctors office the Doctor looked at me and told me,”It’s not you, I just don’t like dogs.” Then came one of the comments of the year. “You seem to be upset and or anxious, did I cause that?” the Doctor asked. Yes was my politically correct response. We sat thru the appointment, if you want to call it sitting!! Afterwards we were supposed to try and take care of a couple other things while in Jacksonville but my anxiety and stress level were way too high and Sally had absorbed as much as she could so we ended up coming back to the farm. A couple phone calls were made and a formal complaint was fast moving up the chain of the VA. The next day I got a call from the IAVA rep from the Fayetteville VA and by the end of the 2nd day I had received an apology from the Director of Mental Health for the Fayetteville region. The phone call I had made had gone from Jacksonville, NC to Washington, DC to Fayetteville, NC back to me and then back to Washington, DC and back to me in a form of an apology all within 48 hours. I was told there was going to be re-education classes held at all clinics under the Fayetteville VA region concerning Service Dogs. This was all god and fine but the rest of the damage was yet to be seen. The next time Sally and I had to go into town to get groceries I realized the extent of what had happened. My anxiety shot thru the roof and the only thing I could compare it to was Sally and my first trip to Wal-Mart together down in Hinesville, GA when we were still doing transfer training. Sally in her unshaking form still looked up at me as we stood outside the store with that are we going to do this look. We went in and started the process of retraining me to be able to handle going out again. This was 2 months ago and when we go out I still have an increase in my anxiety, but relying on Sally we can still function. Not easy yet but getting back to that point.