Greetings friends. I can’t believe it is already the end of August. Next month will mark the three year anniversary of my accident. So much has changed. After 20 years we sold our home in California and moved our herd (our two horses that were boarded at a riding facility) to 6 acres in Colorado. So different ~ so much more work. The move has forced me to be more physically active – caring for a herd of 4 horses (2 of our own and 2 boarded) plus a new herd member – Burrito the mini donkey.
Service dogs are specially trained to assist persons with disabilities. People are most familiar with service dogs who are trained to assist persons who are blind. But service dogs are now being trained and used to help survivors of brain injury deal with physical, cogntive and emotional challenges of brain injury and post traumatic stress or PTSD.
Hello fellow brain injury survivors. My name is Terri Mongait and I, too, am a TBI survivor. Months after my accident in September, 2009 I was able to complete my studies and received my certification in Equine Gestalt Coaching. I am now a Brain Injury Recovery Coach at Begin Again Ranch in Sedalia, Colorado.
I wasn’t planning on getting another dog, that fine June day, when I found Rico. Or maybe it is better to say when Rico found me. “No dog is better than the wrong dog,” I tried to explain to Katie, a young teenager, who didn’t quite believe me. Her mother, Sheila, had tried to explain to Katie that I was very serious and that she should NOT pressure me to get another dog. Somehow, Katie did not really believe her mother or me.
On June 29, 2005, I sustained a Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) while working as a stagehand and setting up for a Santana concert. My whole life changed in one quick second as my feet left the stage, my head hit the cement floor below, and my whole body went into seizures. Then everything stopped. Many of my friends and co-workers thought I was dead. But I survived! I am still surviving.
It was a Monday night, over a candle lit dinner with music softly playing in the back ground, when my partner of ten years informed me that we needed to separate. I was shocked. “For how long?” I asked. “Permanently,” she stated. “Then that’s a divorce, not a separation,” I clarified. “Yes,” she answered. “When?” I asked. Suddenly, I was fired as friend, lover and life partner, with a few weeks’ notice. My world began to crumble.
Sometimes, I get sad during spring. Winter has been too long and too cold. Everything is a muddy mess. And that’s when my father died. One day, it’s bright and cheering. Then it’s dark and gloomy. The birds magically reappear. Then they mysteriously disappear. Sometimes, I don’t exactly know why I am so sad or why the tears come so quickly. I’ve always been a person with a wide range of emotions. But ever since my traumatic brain injuries, I’ve had what is referred to as heightened emotions, while others might have dampened emotions. Almost everyone with a brain injury will struggle with anxiety, depression and other emotional changes.
When I was a little girl, I already knew what Tucker had to teach me after I got hurt: Find a good lap! Not just any lap. Find a good lap. Tucker helped me remember there were lots and lots of very good laps: sitting on my mommy’s lap reading a good book, galloping on my daddy’s lap pretending I was a wild horse, and snuggling with my sisters talking about this and that.
There’s some really interesting research being funded by the Department of Defense on the use of psychiatric service dogs to help veterans deal with the psychological wounds of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Many veterans who have received service dogs are reporting dramatic decreases in the symptoms of post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) as well as the use of medications.
What is a dog story doing in the Brain Injury Blog? Canine companions or dogs with special training to assist people with disabilities aren’t just for people who are blind.
Grace Peay tells the story of how her special dog, Ackerman, helped her regain her independence after her traumatic brain injury. Struggling with social isolation and depression in addition to her physical challenges after her brain injury, acquiring a canine companion required a lengthy application and training process.
The result is a loving companion, guide and assistant who helps her with the daily challenges of living with a brain injury. Ackerman is an amazing canine companion who has enriched her life.
As a TBI survivor, Kimberly Carnevale knows what it means to need assistance and accommodations for physical and cognitive impairments. As a trainer of service dogs, she trains business about the rights of people with disabilities and handicaps for accommodations. Recently, she’s gained a new and unexpected clientele – business owners who believe that their establishment had been visited by (and in many cases, damaged by) “imposter” service dogs. This is the canine version of illegally parking in a handicapped parking space.