Tomorrow, the next chapter for Red and me, for our lives together. I am going to meet with some veterans officials and some veterans to figure out how Red and I can help with our new therapy work. As I wrote earlier, I've decided that working with veterans, especially those recently returned from Afghanistan and Iraq, is where we can be the most effective hopefully.
I have been working at this, I have been talking to vets and their families about what they need, what a dog might do to help them, and there is almost universal agreement that a dog like Red can be helpful, valuable. I know to apply some of the lessons of the hospice work I did with Izzy. You are there to listen, not talk. It is not my job to slap people on the back, cheer them up. That is patronizing. I do not believe I know what they have been through, I do not have an inkling. I am there to listen, actively, to help in the ways that they choose or need.
The primary relationship will be between Red and the vets, not between me and them. I don't have much to tell them, just a desire to help them open up and be more comfortable, if Red and I can. Red can do the talking, he can also do the listening.
In this work, I leave myself at the door, I am there to offer help. Animals can open people up, relax them, re-connect them to a sometimes alienated and suspicious world. I think the vets returning from Iraq and Afghanistan often have a brutal time, I hear this again and again from them and their parents. The war itself was vicious and murky, it was never clear who the enemy was, there is no common ground on what victory is, let alone whether it could be achieved, there were no safe bases, no safe places.
What can somebody like me offer someone who has been through that? Not much. But I can connect them to Red, he is a spirit dog, a guide. I hope he can help. Tomorrow, my first briefing, a visit to a veteran's hospital, a meeting with some young and injured vets. I'll report back. Red is, I believe, ready. We visited an Afghanistan vet over the weekend, just came into the house where he was living. He shook my hand, asked me some questions, ended up on the floor with Red. I could see the healing, it was physical in a way. Time to learn and listen.