Meet Eric Beach, This Able Veteran Graduate, and His Dog, Maddie

Eric Beach completed the Trauma Resiliency Program at This Able Veteran in the fall of 2014. At the end of the program, he was paired with his service dog, Maddie, and he says it has been an amazing adventure ever since. He and Maddy live in Milwaukee Wisconsin where Beach leads his non-profit organization, Project Echelon.

“We educate, equip, and empower veterans through physical activity and self-discovery. I also practice Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu as I love the fight, and have a podcast called “Rest Rounds” where we apply lessons learned from physicality to our life and growth. I am also the in-home mentor for my two daughters.

Beach says his experience with This Able Veteran (TAV) was a catalyst for a completely new path in life.

“I remember early on, Behesha showing me a new way of viewing our life and our traumas. It was something I’d never heard, nor considered, but it resonated deeply. She had helped me see a core belief I had long held was incorrect. I told her this and she said, “If this belief wasn’t rooted in truth, what else isn’t?” Looking at life through the eyes of a dog, a wolf, a fellow traveler who has healed, I was free to question myself and my beliefs and begin the lifelong pursuit of understanding who I am and what I want. It was a lot to take on for me as I wasn’t comfortable expressing my confused thoughts to anyone lest I sound foolish! But with my dog Maddie, I could verbalize all the disjointed thoughts that made no sense so I could clear the mental fog and find clarity. She loved letting me talk it out because she’s always eager for connection. She leans in when others might lean out,” said Beach.

When asked how he would encourage other veterans who are considering TAV’s Trauma Resiliency Program, Beach instantly responded.

“First, ask yourself is what you’re doing working? Are you happy, capable of regulating your emotions, able to process grief, and don’t avoid people or situations because of potential triggers? If you’re not, then what you’re doing isn’t working. What I was doing wasn’t working and it got to be too much. I needed a new way to see myself and the world. Seeing life from this vantage point, and knowing now how much beauty I’ve discovered since Maddie has joined my life, my encouragement is always, how much longer do you need to suffer before you’ve paid your penance? You are the hero of your life story. You have the power to open to possibility and let new knowledge in. Go for it today, because tomorrow never comes,” he said.

Beach says Maddie has enriched his life in a variety of ways, but two stories quickly come to mind.

One, when I take Maddie in public, people ask questions. I wasn’t comfortable having social conversations with people I didn’t know, but I soon realized I wasn’t talking to people, I was speaking for Maddie. Sometimes I even speak in Maddie’s voice! She’s allowed me to bring some of my goofier side out and see its okay to talk with others.” said Beach.

He said that eventually, he found himself wanting to have the conversation and shift focus to me and the person. Maddie was the social lubricant I needed!”

Beach says the second story is something he still does from time to time.

“I give Maddie the command “Free” when she can break from her place or her “Stay” command. Sometimes she sits next to me when I say free but instead of running off, she pushes into me. She cuddles harder as if to say, “Boy, I’m already where I want to be,” said Beach.

When asked if there was anything else he would like to share with fellow veterans and/or service dog owners, Beach thoughtfully responds.

“A service dog is a partnership. They will help you take further healing steps. My path won’t match up to yours, but what I’ve discovered is Maddie met me where I was and helped me find the confidence to keep choosing growth daily because she was my confidant. Even nine years later, she’s right next to me, taking a quick nap while I type this, ready to sit with me, ready to hear from me, and ready to stay by my side when I say “Free.”

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