By Jeff Johnson, AW2 Advocate
While working to take charge of his life and deal with PTSD symptoms, he came in contact with Clear Path for Veterans, an organization in Chittenango, New York. Clear Path’s Dogs2Vet program assists Veterans by matching them with a rescue dog. They train the Veteran with the dog, creating a supportive bond that results in outstanding support to the Veteran and enhances their quality of life in the process. Following this training the dog is a service dog and the veteran gains the ability and confidence to deal with the many issues presented to them.
In the summer of 2012, Miller was paired with Dinah, a 3-year-old, rescue black Lab, who immediately provided him an emotional boost. Together, Miller and Dinah began the 18 month training program that Miller says not only enhanced his skills in working with Dinah but also helped him face life’s challenges. Though their training is not complete, Miller and Dinah have progressed to the final stages of training and expect an early graduation. Miller plans to continue the training to earn Therapy Dog qualification so Dinah could be used to help others and demonstrate the benefits of a service dog.
Other than the obvious, Dinah is trained to alert him when his anxiety rises – before he may even notice it. When she hears the command ‘brace’ she helps support his body weight. Miller shared that the biggest benefits for him are companionship and increased confidence – he is more at ease now and more comfortable socially.
Dinah accompanies Miller almost everywhere and will be joining him in college next semester. He is studying to become a recreational therapist with a goal to assist Veterans and others who have disabilities with adaptive needs.
Based on my experiences with Miller, it is evident that Clear Path for Veterans Dogs2Vets program has been a positive and instrumental factor in his ability to move on in his life and to put the pain of his injuries behind him. He sees sharing his experiences as encouragement to other AW2 Soldiers who might benefit from a service dog, and he wants them to take the steps necessary to do what he did and enhance their life in a big way.
Clear Path for Veterans is a private, non for profit organization dedicated to helping military Veterans and their Families recover and reintegrate by offering a variety of support, training, vocational, and recreational programs in a rural setting of natural beauty. The organization offers many programs including outdoor activities, camping, vocational programs, and “talking circles” where Veterans can meet with each other and share their experiences and provide mutual support.