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Review for Healing4Heroes™ Inc, Peachtree City, GA, USA

Rating: 5 stars  

I'm a veteran of the highway, though not of military service. I was paralyzed during my first year in college. As a T6 paraplegic due to spinal cord injury in a car accident, I may not have experienced the trauma of active military duty in war, but I share the life-altering physical results of catastrophic injury that change everything we thought we knew about life. I would need to write several reviews or essays to express my admiration for this nonprofit organization, Healing4Heroes, President Piper, and its collaboration with TAO K9 Unleashed, Head Trainer Suzanne, and volunteers. I can't fathom the horrors and atrocities of war that our military members must've suffered. As a mere disabled civilian I felt like a stepchild in the program, but both Piper and Suzanne gave me full entitlement to it. In fact, they enlisted me. On my 6th "tour" of H4H duty, I've seen those two women warriors struggle, cry, scramble up (metaphorical) walls with few footholds, and haul their own exhausted bodies over invisible barriors--to keep this program available. They're stressed, overwhelmed and somehow they keep going, sanely and sensitively, FOR ALL H4-HEROES! They're HEROES helping heroes heal when the odds may seem stacked against them. They don't give up. They give all and then give more. They have hearts as big as the Grand Canyon and probably cried enough to fill the river that deepened it, tears of nonprofit frustration and tears of joy to witness what happens when their hard work pays off. To see unintended miracles like the guy whose war-wounded spirit showed on his face who was given a dog, Danny, that had already been passed over and given to someone else and given back in a day before finding his match. Danny, a "runner" if given the chance, didn't bolt when his new vet fainted; he stayed, licked his new best friend's face to wake him up! Instant bond. Everbody cried and that's when a foster mom or dad who keeps training a rejected but good dog cries the hardest. Something inexplicable happened between Danny-boy and his human. And real men cry. What about Ford, the half-grown puppy who got stuck in the engine of his namesake, a Ford pickup. For 3 days! Driving around! After being extricated and after 2 surgeries, the $6000 rescued dog was still the sweetest little boy after his ordeal, who turned out to be really smart too. A dog-owner in Suzanne's training class couldn't resist Ford, up for adoption. She trained him in a few basic commands within 15 minutes, and then took the eager Ford home to foster for a few days the week before H4H. Nobody expected him to be ready, to advance so quickly into the program, much less to be chosen. His brief foster mom brought him to the H4H day of the dogs where he incredibly met his new forever-mom. Another feisty, stubborn dog Hunter, passed over twice, something of a problem child but again, a basically good dog, finally met his match. These examples happened this past week during the last H4H training. Multiply these stories of wounded warriors and disabled civilians who partner with furry companions, who continue training their service dogs to help them navigate a scary world...and you've got the best symbiotic relationship between human and canine that opens doors previously slammed shut. Something magical happens in the intensity of H4H, like the acceptance and privacy of group therapy and canine responsiveness, that unconditional positive regard of dogs bonding with their humans and humans bonding with other humans. The disabled vets with invisible wounds and TBIs with cognitive difficulties suffer the most social discrimination. My wheelchair screams disability; although even paraplegics have invisible limitations, I don't think I'll hear the same ignorant questions some of our disabled veterans endure with service dogs who help them live more confidently and productively. These military people have a bond of sacrifice. Piper gives her life to help them. Suzanne gives hers to help Piper help them, too. The disabled civilians who stumble into the program after stumbling into it like stepchildren aren't talked about much. But I'm grateful to Piper and Suzanne's Teamwork on so many levels. My friends have assumed that because I seem independent and capable as a para that I don't need H4H. They've asked, "You don't really need a service dog!" questioning the validity of training. If I get this presumption from friends who know more of my hidden disabilities than stereotypes, I can imagine a walking vet's isolation and social anxiety. We civilians might walk around looking normal, limp or roll, with MS, Fibromyalgia, Lupus, Dibetes, Lyme disease, Epilepsy, PTSD, Bipolar Disorder, and TBIs with cognitive deficits. We may have been unfairly judged. As no para is simply paralyzed from the waist down, no two injuries are alike. But I can guess that anybody who experiences war in any capacity comes back scarred and wounded. I've seen these men and women gain confidence in being human again, in belonging. The volunteers and fosters and others, those who donate time and funding and resources who help us recover, all are special and necessary. I went to a poetry reading last night at GA Tech by myself after my literary friends flaked out. If I hadn't had my gifted service dog of 1.5 years-- after ruptured biceps and rotator cuffs, cancer surgery-chemo-radiation, after my husband left, after my mentally ill Asperger's kid CAN'T leave (yet)--if my husband hadn't gifted me with a puppy, Kai, a month before he abandoned us, I probably wouldn't have bothered to drive into Atlanta to see a past U.S. poet laureate read a funny poem about a dog. I might not have mustered the courage to go and hear the other two Pulitzer poets read Shakespearian sonnets & other spectacular poems either. I wouldn't have been a fully-privileged child of Healing4Hearoes because I'm nobody's hero, but I went to a poetry reading, dammit. I had watched a bunch of real heroes complete H4H with their service dogs, passing the Canine Good Citizen & public access test, the bittersweet end of another intense training. Instead of going to my regular Thur. night dog training class, I watched Billy Collins draw a dog on his latest book as he signed it for me. Nobody in dog training, Suzanne, knows that poetry is my other invisible disability and H4H, Piper, is an addiction! THANK YOU MORE THAN I CAN EXPRESS. Heroes who're just wishing on horses for a service dog, get off your waiting lists and get thee to H4H. It'll change your life, Shakespeare's promise (even if you don't know a sonnet from a sextet on a latrine).

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