#veterans #servicedogs

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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Massac Quilters Guild Raises Donations for This Able Veteran Six Years in a Row

The members of the Massac Quilter’s Guild have long believed in the power of giving back to others. Over the years, they have created a variety of items to help others — from pillowcase dresses, items for Lourdes Hospice, to pillowcases for area nursing homes.

“Those things were good,” said president Janet Mittendorf. “But we decided we wanted to do something that would make a bigger difference.”

The group decided that would be by helping veterans, but they weren’t sure how to find a local organization.

And then, Mittendorf attended a Red Hats Society meeting where This Able Veteran representatives were speaking and passing out brochures.

“I thought their program sounded amazing, so I contacted them,” Mittendorf said. “We decided we wanted to find a place that was helping veterans and we knew they were getting the help they need. We’ve found something and stuck with it.”

That was seven years ago since the partnership began. Since then, Massac Quilter’s Guild has made and raffled off quilts, raising thousands of dollars for the veterans’ organization. That latest donation was presented to This Able Veteran executive director Rebecca Renshaw on June 5.

The raffling of two quilts raised $2,442.80 during the 2023 AQS Paducah Quilt Show.

Those funds are used by This Able Veteran to train service dogs for U.S. military veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder.

Headquartered in Carbondale, This Able Veteran has been helping veterans since 2011. Serving veterans from around the country, it was founded by Behesha Doan, who is the organization’s training director and the owner of Extreme K-9. As a trauma survivor, Doan brings insight to how a correctly trained service dog, combined with a trauma resiliency program, can make a difference in the lives of those suffering from post-traumatic stress, traumatic brain injuries and those with co-occurring substance abuse. Through This Able Veteran, Doan has developed a veteran-centric model of care that involves the veterans, their clinicians, the service dogs and This Able Veteran.

Renshaw explained the training program costs over $30,000 for each service dog as they get the service dogs as puppies to start training them right away. The dogs go home every night with a trainer and are specially trained for each veteran.

“There’s a very strenuous process we go through to select both the veterans and the dogs. Service dogs are selected based on their temperament, structural soundness, proven lineage of healthy genetics and several other qualifications. Veterans must fill out an online application to be considered for the program,” Renshaw emphasized.

“Once selected, we find out what they need,” Renshaw said. “We pair the dog with the veteran based on where the veteran lives, the veteran’s lifestyle, and the temperament of them both. We train that dog for that veteran specifically.”

During its almost 12-year history, This Able Veteran has graduated 80 pairs of dogs and veterans. The next class is set to graduate in late October.

“It’s a great thing to be a part of,” Mittendorf said.

Massac Quilter’s Guild members have already begun the work on the quilt they will be raffling off during the 2024 AQS Paducah Quilt Show. The fabric and other materials will be donated allowing proceeds to go to This Able Veteran. The members divvy up the work of each block and then put it all together by January.

“Ticket sales will begin in February. Tickets are $1 each and available from guild members or during the April quilt show, during which AQS allows us to sell tickets at the Julian Carroll Convention Center,” said Mittendorf.

The Massac Quilter’s Guild was organized in 1983 to encourage interest in all phases of quilting. The group meets the first Monday of the month at the Metropolis Community Center at 9:30 a.m. with doors opening at 9 a.m. Meetings are held the second Monday if the meeting day falls on a holiday.

“We’re a very small group, but we try to get a lot done,” Mittendorf said.

For more information on This Able Veteran, visit thisableveteran.org.

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