Spreading Awareness

Hey guys! I know I know, it’s been way too long since you’ve heard from me. I have no excuses. I only ask for forgiveness. Thank you :)

Now, although I haven’t posted on here in a while doesn’t mean we’ve been inactive. Quite the opposite in fact. Just in the last month alone we have conducted a successful fundraiser with t-shirts through Teespring. Here’s the link www.teespring.com/Paws4PTSD and if you missed out, don’t worry we will launch another campaign soon.

We crushed our original goal of 50 shirts by selling 63! Thank you to each and every one of you who got a shirt. Now, I am very excited to see pictures of our fans and supporters wearing those shirts! (hint hint) I’d also love to hear the stories about the opportunities those shirts will make as people as about them. The opportunity to talk and make “human” PTSD and all those who it effects.

On top of the shirts, my wife asked me if I’d every considered the silicone bracelets like Livestrong. Not only did she ask, but she forwarded me a link to a company to price and order. I thought long and hard. I thought about the impact of awareness bracelets and the financial risk with our very limited finances. Then I shook my head and reminded myself that my wife’s ideas are awesome!

We made an initial order of 200 bracelets and to my astonishment we have moved through almost half of those in just a few days. If you still need one (Or 5 for all your friends) you can hit the donate now button here on our website and make a $2 donation for each bracelet.

For those who have already donated for yours I want to give you my sincere thanks. I’ve had mine on since they came in the mail and I’ve already been given the opportunity to talk to people about what they stand for. On the bands is the phrase “Stronger than PTSD” and our website. The phrase connects our philosophies with the shirt design from our initial campaign. The shirts said “I’m not who I was before” on the front, and “I’m stronger” on the back. Get the theme?

We all face our daily struggles. Sometimes small things, sometimes huge things, and with PTSD sometimes insurmountable things if we are alone and without support. These shirts and bracelets are nothing more than a tool. A tool to humanize those of us who suffer PTSD. A tool to spark a conversation. A tool to bring awareness, not to PTSD specifically, but to the fact we are NOT the monsters of the media. We are human beings with PTSD and care about each other.

So, until next time, take care of yourself and stay safe.

~Shane

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Where have you been?

Where have you been?

Hi all.  I’ve been here.  Well, more accurately all over the place. I’ve been doing my best to be positive and stay focused on my family and having good days.  I’m happy to say, it’s worked pretty well!

I have been staying busy.  Working with Hope, doing some writing, enjoying my family, and seeing a new doctor to try and overcome some more of the PTSD demons.

Hope continues to come along.  She does pretty well in just about every situation with the exception of one.  That consistent pain she becomes happens every Sunday morning at church.  Now, she doesn’t do it in Bible study.  Yep, you guessed it, she does it during worship.  Acts like a total moron lol.  Hopefully we’ll be able to figure it out soon because I actually really enjoy service at church.

I’ve been given an opportunity to write for another online blog.  Spartan Blog, and its editor Carrie Adams responded to a message I sent via their facebook fan page (find it here) about losing Riley in Afghanistan in September of 2012.  I was offered to write a few articles for their blog and a childhood dream was realized.  I am published! :-)   Here’s the first article and the race follow up article.

My family and I had a great Christmas together this year.  The kids lost in the magic of Santa and we were able to see most of  those who we wanted to and were within driving distance.

So, I’m hopeful for 2013 and what it has in store.  Of course lots of work building Paws up and working with my Hope, my family, and my doctor to be healthier and happier. I am looking forward to this year for lots of reasons.  Seems I just feel like this is going to be a great year.

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Birth of a Non-Profit: Paws 4 PTSD

Birth of a Non-Profit: Paws 4 PTSD

I’ve had a lot of people ask and a lot of chances to answer the question of “Why did Paws 4 PTSD get started?”  I’ve done my best to answer in an adhoc way and finally decided a post to address this question would be the best way to explain.

I’ll try and give the reader’s digest version of why I started Paws 4 PTSD.
I am a veteran.  I am a former cop (10 years). I suffer from PTSD and in 2006 I almost ended everything and took the easy way out.
A couple years ago I started looking for ways to get a PTSD service dog after a friend of mine had success with his and was almost back to his old self. It was really this last year I started to work toward getting my own PTSD service dog.  However, I continued to hit road blocks;  My service was prior to 9/11. I wasn’t physically handicapped. I wasn’t diagnosed with PTSD through the VA process (My diagnosis was in 2006 by a civilian).  My first combat experience was in 1995. I wasn’t a veteran of Iraq or Afghanistan, even though I did contract work for the state department in 2008-2009 in Afghanistan.  I wasn’t willing to spend $3,000 or more on a “service dog” that was shipped from somewhere to me (I know enough about animals to know I had to make sure there was a bond between me and my dog to have success).

So, I reached out to a few friends I’ve known for years.  I was introduced to a great organization out of San Antonio, TX who promised me they’d help and not to worry about it, but once paperwork was filled out and sent in I didn’t hear back. As my frustration built, so did my resolve.  There had to be a better way.  I wasn’t reinventing the wheel here, just trying to make it spin faster for people like me.  During a conversation with my wife to try and define what “people like me” meant I had an epiphany.  Every PTSD service dog group was created to help veterans.  There’s no one out there to help a rape victim with a PTSD.  Or a victim of violence or child abuse.  The top two sufferers of PTSD are child abuse victims and rape victims.  Why were people only helping veterans? Money was the answer.  That although these groups really do great work they are making decisions on who to help based on money and how they can get it to help more.  Now, please don’t misunderstand me.  The majority of these groups are amazing at what they do and have helped tremendously in the lives of the people they were created to help.  A few that I know personally that do great work are Train a Dog Save a Warrior and Patriot Paws.

I decided Paws 4 PTSD’s purpose would be to  help ALL who suffer the effects of PTSD. Might be a child of a soldier.  A wife.  A rape victim in college. An older person who suffers like I do because their house was burglarized. And all our animals didn’t need to be service animals.  A lot of times a companion animal is what’s desired or works best for the person. Even a cat can help.  That’s why it’s Paws 4 PTSD and not Dogs 4 PTSD.

Then I thought about where to look for animals and how to “vet” people who request help.  Obtaining my service dog confirmed my initial thoughts.  We will use ONLY rescue animals. The rescue organizations work hard and selflessly to do what’s best for the animal, not the people. If you’ve ever rescued a dog you know the process.  Almost like adopting a child. Very detailed and most include a contract.  So again, why reinvent the wheel and step on egos and toes.  I can, through Paws 4 PTSD, be an advocate to help these groups.  Our focus will be the person asking for help.  In this way we have one group focused on what is best for the animal, one focused on what is best for the person, and when the connection is success is inevitable.

I hope we can build a network of veterinarians too to donate services. Businesses to provide the equipment needed.  In a perfect world the team of the person and animal would be “adopted” by a veterinarian and business in their area so we wouldn’t be adding cost and stress to their life, only providing healing and helping build a stronger community.

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Calm in the eye of the storm – Hope’s reaction to kids

Tonight Hope and I stopped by our local HEB grocery store to grab some pasta for dinner after work. All I can say is WOW I am impressed with her laid back demeanor.

We traveled through the parking lot and store without issue. Have I told you just how awesome it is to go someplace like that and not freak out?

We grab our stuff and head directly to the 10 items or less checkout. Of course lady ahead of us had 50+ items and two kids who can only be described as… Well… Demons?

So, we are as patiently as possible standing in line waiting our turn while these two demons scream constantly and try and entice Hope with everything from candy to drinks to meat.

And just what did Hope do? She calmly stood there on my left side, leaning against my leg. And effectively ignored them with almost no input from me.

She is a ninja!

~Shane

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Paws 4 PTSD K9 Hope’s new bed

Breaking news!
Paws 4 PTSD K9 Hope’s New Bed!!

Working this last Saturday I noticed something that disturbed me. Later in the day I was working away and Hope was where she always is, laying behind me, on the concrete floor of our store.

I know, I know, please don’t be too harsh. She just a plops down just about anywhere if I’m still for more than a minute or two.

So, I’m working away and happened to glance back at her to check on her. When I did I noticed something that made me feel horrible. My beautiful loving service dog Hope…. shivering from the cold floor.

I. Felt. Horrible!!

The very next day at work I went and got her a bed to keep her off the cold floor while with me at work. She has one for work and one for home.

Needless to say, I think she likes it and has forgiven me.

~Shane

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Hope’s first week.

Hope’s First Week:

First of all, please accept my apologies for not blogging sooner. I promise I will do better. This week has been tumultuous at best, but also glorious and inspiring.

Hope and I have had a start to our relationship like we’ve been together since she was a pup. She loves the family and they all love her. Our routine clicked from day one and she has already proven herself to me her loyalty and unwavering love. I’m amazed because all I’ve done is give her a home, food, water, and a few scratches behind the ear.
Hope goes everywhere with me. We’ve gone to the convenience store, restaurant, grocery store, work, etc. She is with me always. And when we’re home, she loves to play with our kids.
I haven’t encountered any issues from stores or whatever when she’s with me. Some people have asked, but most just go about their day.
One of my most dreaded, but almost daily, things I do is go by the grocery store. I can’t remember the last time I went where I didn’t come out feeling like I’d run miles. Just totally exhausted. Well, last night we went down to the local HEB grocery store for a couple things. It. Was. Amazing!! I had space. People have me room to breath. Hope, as always, just stuck to my left side and it was like we were in a 10′ bubble of safety and peace. When I got home I told my wife about it and couldn’t stop smiling that I had actually enjoyed going.
Hope works effortlessly and tirelessly. We are still learning each other and building our bond, but I hope she knows that I already love her as if she was a part of me. Because, to be quite honest, she is.
God bless,
~Shane

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A PTSD service dog named HOPE.

Her name is Hope

I never thought I’d be writing this post this soon.  Relatively soon I mean.  Almost two years ago started the interest in obtaining a service dog for my PTSD, but a concerted effort was actually launched a little over three months ago.  With an overwhelming positive outpouring of support and help I have her.  A PTSD service dog that I named Hope.

Paws 4 PTSD K9 Hope

Founder, Shane Phillips, and his PTSD Service Dog Hope

So, yesterday we traveled to Round Rock, TX to meet up with our trainer, Sandy Wittliff of K9 Mutt Training, and Beverly of German Shepard Rescue CTX in the Dell Diamond parking lot.  There we planned to meet and evaluate a potential dog for me named “Bingo”, a female German Shepard/Belgian Malawa mix.

I was told Bingo was good tempered, loved kids, and had the overall attitude needed to be a good service dog for my PTSD.  I was sent pictures of her and a link to view her information online through the rescue organization.  Sandy had already traveled to Austin to an event where Bingo was present and thought she could be a good match for me.

Now, to those who have never adopted a rescued animal let me explain a little about the process.  First of all, this isn’t a $100 gets you a dog out of the back of a truck at Wal-Mart.  There’s a process.  Yes, it’s a pretty detailed process.  It’s an adoption and the rescue organizations have the animals well being on the top of their priorities.  This fact is the exact reason why Paws 4 PTSD will only use rescue animals.  So, to make a long story short, I had a house visit, filled out an application, had references checked, and everyone that was an adult that would have to be around her, if I adopted her, got a phone call and were interviewed.

So, we make it down to round rock and I’m introduced to “Bingo”.  Let’s just say we hit it off immediately.  I knew within seconds I wanted her, but wanted to make sure Sandy observed the specific behaviors she was wanting to see to insure successful training.

Thankfully, she did! So after a few hugs, lots of “thank you’s”, and a couple of bags of goodies from the rescue organization, we were off!

We visited a couple of friends, went shopping for a few of her necessities, and then brought her home.  I had been asked several times if she worked out what I would change her name to.  I told everyone they’d have to wait because I didn’t want to jinx it and tell everyone until I knew for sure she was mine.  When I announced her name my wife got a sly little smile on her face and told me she’d figured that’s what I’d name her.  Am I that transparent? lol

So, after a long day (but completely great day) we all settled into our home and called it a night.

~Shane

Hope in her new home

Hope, tired but happy, after a long day and finally in her new home.

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Meeting a PTSD Service Dog

PTSD Service Dog

Well, tomorrow’s the day. Tomorrow will be a overwhelmingly great day, or the next day on my journey to find a service dog to help with my PTSD.
I work tomorrow, but my boss is cool enough he’s letting me off work early so that me, my wife, our 4(almost 5) year old, and 5 week old sons can take a road trip down to Round Rock to meet a dog who may turn out to be the one. My service dog. The service dog to help with my PTSD. Not a picture of someone else and their dog, but a real life animal with the potential and temperament to help continue my healing. My PTSD service dog.
Excited, anxious, and for lack of a better way to explain; like I’m about to meet the other half in an arranged meeting. Lol
As I listen to my wife and youngest son in the next room I can’t help but think we are one step closer. And to think this journey may end in the exact parking lot where I hit rock bottom in 2006. That’s definitely a story for another time, lets just say that parking lot is where I stood up and risked it all by asking for help.
So, tomorrow’s post will be all about the dog I’m going to meet or about where we go from here. I prefer the former.
~Shane

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Veterans Day

This weekend, specifically Sunday, our nation and even some of our allies will celebrate Veterans Day November 11th, 2012.  I can’t help but wonder about the word celebrate and what Veterans Day is really meant for.

For me Veterans Day is for guys (and girls) like me.  We served in our armed forces honorably and have either retired or separated from the military to pursue civilian lives.  Not all of us saw combat and those of us that did sometimes wish we hadn’t.  However, I see a lot of “graves” type pictures and “all gave some” pictures in the social media circles calling people to remember their veterans and be thankful for what they did for them.  Memorial Day is the time to honor those lost in my opinion, not have a Bar-B-Que and drunk fest at the lake.  Please don’t misunderstand, I think daily of my brothers who I’ve lost to war, and will always appreciate others remembering their sacrifice for the freedoms and liberties we take for granted.  And I must admit, there is nothing wrong with cooking food and having drinks with close friends while having a good time.  Just remember what that day is actually for, ya know?

Ok, sorry, I digressed, back to Veterans Day.

Veterans Day to me specifically is the one day of the year where a person can walk up to me and tell me “Thank You for your service” and I won’t have that sick knot in my stomach thinking of my brothers who paid for my right to live and in some instances are the direct reason I’m still alive.  I’m ashamed the rest of the year when someone tells me that.  Thank you.  You’re thanking me for coming home? Thanking me for losing friends? Thanking me for killing? Thanking me for the sacrifices of others and their families? I know that must come across as arrogant or non appreciative, but sincerely it is not.  Veterans Day I’ll happily say “you’re welcome”, but the rest of the year, if you want to tell someone thank you for your freedoms.  Go visit the graves of my heroes.  Go tell their families, face to face, thank you for paying the full measure due so we as a population can worry about trivial things like gas prices and stock markets instead of daily survival.

Veterans Day is a celebration to me.  The one day of the year I’m not ashamed and feel guilty for surviving.  For living on while they died and all that loved them carry on with a huge hole in their lives.

So, celebrate Sunday.  Have a Bar-B-Que.  Shake the hand of any veteran you come across, and if you’re a veteran, take advantage of the free meals offered by several restaurants.  If you’re looking for something to do or someplace to go check the Department of Veterans Affairs listings of activities by clicking here.

Ripping Out

Heading home on Veterans Day 2008 for leave from Afghanistan.

For those who haven’t been there and don’t know, enjoy Sunday too. Just keep in mind the rest of the year it’s hard on us to hear nice things about bad things we’ve done or losses we’ve suffered.

~Shane

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PTSD and the Workplace

PTSD is a wonderful thing to have in the workplace. It keeps you motivated, focused, and alert….Not quite the case. PTSD and the workplace, the reality is most days I can go about my day to day responsibilities without much issue. Once or twice I’ll have to escape outside to calm down or quiet my ears to be able to refocus and get the things done I’m required to as a manager.

However, there are days (less some weeks, more others) like today.
Everybody in the mix, stacked up around me. TOO close!! I ask nicely, “Hey, can ya back up and give me some room to work.” And get met with a blank stare, or most often a “just take care of ME” response. Mentally I’m screaming at them in my toughest “cop” voice to BACK OFF!! SHUT UP!! And get in line. If they want my full attention they should get in line and wait their turn so I can do my best for each of them.
Instead, I walk our lumberyard to breath and calm down. No lives will be lost because I take a break. My ears ring so loudly talking on the phone right now isn’t possible. I’ll walk and “inspect” our lumberyard until I can tolerate them again.
~Shane

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