#veterans #servicedog

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.”

If you would like to learn more about This Able Veteran and its mission, please visit thisableveteran.org. To learn how you can support This Able Veteran, visit https://thisableveteran.org/how-you-can-help/donate-now/

#veterans #nonprofit #veteranlove #servicedogs #donate #thisableveteran #ptsd





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What Makes a This Able Veteran Service Dog Special?

The US Department of Veteran Affairs says Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) “is a mental health problem that some people develop after experiencing or witnessing a life-threatening event, like combat, a natural disaster, a car accident, or sexual assault.”

Fortunately, This Able Veteran is doing something to assist qualified veterans suffering from PTSD with highly trained service dogs.

In this post, we will identify what makes a This Able Veteran service dog so remarkable and unique and how they help veterans suffering with PTSD by the tasks they’ve been trained to perform.

What Makes TAV Dogs Special?

Behesha Doan, founder and Program Director of This Able Veteran, is a certified dog trainer and a certified service dog trainer through the International Association of Canine Professionals, and her training career spans nearly 40 years. Doan explains what makes TAV dogs so special.

“One of the things that makes TAV service dogs so remarkable is our puppy selection process of the service dog candidates. Given the importance of the tasks these dogs will need to perform, we start with puppies that come from a genetic and temperamental history of proven service dog stock. That means the mother and father have produced puppies whose temperaments are consistent with the kind of work they will need to do as adult working dogs.” said Doan.

This Able Veteran typically takes pups in at eight weeks of age and their training begins at that time. It takes between 16-18 months from start to finish.

“One of most important things is that our new puppies must learn how to learn.  We accomplish this in our 8 week old pups by teaching interactive games using positive reinforcement and play.  When done effectively, our training system creates a highly motivated, focused, engaged young dog that loves to learn new things.  When this system of communication is built and cemented in the months that follow, we can teach the dogs new things for the rest of its life. Because dogs also have genetic motivations, breed specific tendencies, social and interactive needs, food motivations, and varying capacities to sustain mental focus, we make sure we expand the dogs’ capacities as far as possible while loving their work every hour of every day of their lives.” said Doan.

Doan says that This Able Veteran dog trainers have learned directly from her how to develop and instill a clear understanding of how to do tasks that have dozens of layers required for understanding and reliable performance under high distraction levels or to awaken out of a dead sleep and still accomplish the task(s). She explains that nightmare interruption is a good example of a multi-layer process.

“The dogs must have genetic, temperamental and trained responses to remain completely calm and peaceful when a veteran might be at work, in a classroom, or in a meeting. In the same instant, they also must recognize, react and alert the veteran when the veteran shows even the most subtle signs of rising anxiety which could be a jaw clench, a stiffening of the body, wringing of the hands or respiration changes. The dog is trained to move from calm inactivity to highly focused in a matter of two or three seconds.” she said.

“That is a razor thin line for a dog to do that especially when the dog is being petted or talked to by others or in crowds or stadiums. TAV dogs also must be non-reactive to loud/strange sounds, abrupt movements, uninvited touch, and stressful environments. They must become neutral to all those things.” Behesha stated.

Reflecting on the goal of placing a TAV service dog in a veteran’s life, Doan states “It is a powerful thing to hear our veterans tell us how much more peace, freedom, and independence they experience on an increasing basis from year to year.  As the veteran practices what he/she learned in our Trauma Resilience Program, and the dog practices it’s trained skillsets, the result is a more and more empowered life, deeper attunement between the dog/handler pair, and better quality of life for their families and friends as well.

And it all starts with those special TAV dogs.


To learn how you can support This Able Veteran, visit here. Thank you.

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