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SFC Zeke

Afghanistan War Journal  November 06 2011
 — By CJ Grisham
SFC Zeke

Today, I listened to the advice of more than a few people and finally went to the TMC and Combat Stress hospital. My right hand hasn’t stopped twitching after nearly a month and it’s beyond irritating. I’m not sleeping, not eating, and highly irritable. I’ve been under a lot of stress and feel like many of those above me are just making things worse.

So, for three hours today, I sat and got to revisit many issues related to my PTSD, depression, and anxiety as well as some new ones. While waiting to speak with one of the case workers, I had the opportunity of sitting down with “SFC Zeke.”

Zeke looked very busy when I entered the room, but could tell immediately I was there for business. He set aside his distraction and gave me his complete attention. He didn’t say a word. Just sat there and listened to me. He didn’t judge me; he didn’t interrupt me; and he never blamed me. In 5 minutes, Zeke did what few others could do having just met me – he calmed me down and made me feel like I was worth listening to. I want to introduce you to Zeke:

“SFC Zeke” is a Vet Dog. These dogs are raised from puppyhood around the military. They are used to the sounds, the business, and the chaos that accompanies military service. They use Labs, which are the most laid back and gentle dogs.

When I walked into the room, Zeke was going to town on his bone. He looked up, saw me, and – I kid you not – placed the bone off to the side in an “it’s time to go to work” fashion. He was no longer focused on his chew toy, but on his patient…me. While it sounds hokey, I can now see the value in having these dogs in a combat zone.

Zeke has a busy schedule. He frequently visits other FOBs and checkpoints to visit with other troops. He works out with the service dogs and working dogs. It was refreshing to be human again for awhile and just pet a real dog. We aren’t supposed to mess with the animals around here because of fears about rabies. Dogs have a way of calming your nerves and reminding you what normal is supposed to look like.

Zeke did just that and I’m glad I got to hang out with him today. It was definitely a much better day. And I found a group of troops here to meet with on a regular basis for continued therapy.

(33) Readers Comments

  1. Oh, CJ, that is the sweetest face! I’m so glad you took the time to take care of YOU and to allow SFC Zeke love you in the unconditional manner that dogs have. Just reading this post made ME feel better because I <3 you and worry about you. Things will always be up and down, but when you recognize you need some support, your willingness to go get it speaks volumes about you.

    • I am a marine corps gulf war vet. How can I apply for one of these wonderful dawg’s ? I’m currently at 70 % for raging PTSD, and living in my storage unit,with my broken jeep.They tell me I will soon be at 100% .I (live) HA, in S FLA. Thanx… jazzbo.

  2. CJ, I love this post! Like LL, I worry about you and am so glad you made this decision. Will continue to keep you in my prayers & now I’ll add SFC Zeke, ’cause he has an important job, too – at which it seems he’s very good! Sending love & hugs.

  3. Hi CJ- I’m sorry to hear that you’ve been having an especially difficult time but am very glad that you got to meet SFC Zeke…. Dogs are so amazing and as therapy animals, can’t be beat. What you described is just how sensitive they are. You walked in, sat down and he knew you needed him, so he came over to you. There are programs that train dogs to assist combat vets who struggle with PTSD. Maybe when you get home you would consider looking into applying for one. In the meantime, hang in there and try to hang out with SFC Zeke as often as you can. Remember that lots of us back here love you and send you prayers and lots of positive energy. All my best, Sharon

  4. Hey CJ This is such a Great story! I hope your okay my friend I have been really worried about you as of late! I am glad that SFC Zeke was able to give you some of that comfort you needed! It is true that animals have a way of knowing what we need sometimes. Just know buddy if you need anything I am always there for you brother! Please Tell SFC Zeke I said Hi when you next see him!

  5. Hang in there CJ. Regards to SFC Zeke.

  6. CJ, I only learned about you and this blog when this one was re-posted this morning by Soldier’s Angels Germany. I am so glad they did. I am so pleased to “meet” you, and I am so grateful to you for sharing this blog. The way you explained this so clearly made me understand how it was for you – and how this wonderful dog was able to reach you, touch you, even nurture you in a way that another human being perhaps couldn’t. I am SO glad you did listen to the advice of a few wise people and go, so that you could have this experience. I hope that you continue to visit SFC Zeke as often as you can!

    At my last job I worked with another school social worker who brought her therapy dog to school with her. Clancy was the best, and whenever we had a meeting and he was there, I’d be sitting on the floor with Clancy. Initially I thought, being a dog person, that I was just petting this very sweet dog. But in reality he was working with me; in his own way bolstering me up so that I had that much more “stuff” (energy?) to return to my school and do my job.

    I am so sorry it has been pretty rough for you lately, and I hope that your situation can improve a lot, and soon. I’m hoping that besides SFC Zeke, you were able to gain other solutions, short term or long term. CJ, like Sharon said I hope you will be able to look into getting your own vet dog like SFC Zeke once you are back home. Meanwhile, hopefully you can visit him as often as you are able!

    You have done a lot of good by sharing this with all of us – I am going to share this so more are aware. I only became aware of some of what our men and women are actually experiencing since my son was wounded last June. I want everyone to be aware, so that we all can be supportive towards every vet we know and meet. You are doing us all a great service and for that and all of your sacrifices, I thank you. And thank you for this blog site, and this post. You and all the troops are in my prayers daily.
    Sending best wishes and a good strong hug,
    Mary Kay

  7. WARNING ; When something like this works. It’s already been proven time and time again, the Veterans Administration will turn it down because of cost. Don’t get to confortable becaue when not if they cut the K-9 program for us with PDSD your PDSD will come back twice the level it was. Check the history, If something works that well, the V.A. will cut it. This is from a PDSD Veteran that knows. Hang in there warriors.

    • America’s VetDogs, for whom SFC Zeke “works,” is a nonprofit organization that is not connected with the VA. Therefore, as long as people continue to support America’s VetDogs through donations and volunteer work, there is no chance that these combat stress control dogs and therapy dogs will go away.

      • Good Molly. I do hope that this programme will continue because it does helps military personnel who put their lives in danger for their country. They deserve the best! Keep up the good works.

    • L.J. the VA just approved that dogs can be used for service dogs and that they are on board with this. Us as Veterans have to fight for the things we want, and not be so quick to just let them take things. As someone else stated America’s Vet Dogs is not affiliated with the VA at all and are strictly for the Veteran.

  8. This is the best thing I’ve read in months! So happy you got to meet SFC Zeke and have gained a true friend. What a sweetheart he is! Much love to you from both of us…

  9. Glad you met Zeke but what did the Doc do for you? I have hand tremors too and mine started 5 days after my second mastectomy (I know you never had that problem though). Doc put me on Primidone and it caused me to lose memory at times and to have flashbacks. I finally got him to take me off that med and so far I am better but still have the tremors. I can live with tremors better than being forgetful.

  10. Glad SFC Zeke is there. Unconditional love is always wonderful. Take care. Sending prayers and love your way.

  11. Loved this post. Loved your transparency and Zeke’s faithfulness.

  12. Hi CJ,

    We are black lab owners and are glad that you enjoyed SFC Zeke’s special brand of therapy. We also want you and your family to know that we all appreciate everything you do, every day, in every way for your service! We could not thank you enough even if we tried!

  13. CJ,

    I pray for you and I appreciate your comment to me and I love your tranparency and Zeke’s faithfulness
    you deserve to have a friend like Zeke..SALUTE!
    More power in Humanity..

    God bless!!

  14. Glad to see you’ve been seeking the support you need, and especially glad that you’ve got the help of a good officer and a gentle dog.

  15. Pingback: A Soldier’s Best Friend | Flopping Aces

  16. Excellent all around! They don’t call ‘em man’s best friend for nothin’!

  17. nice really i like it pets so very good

  18. CJ,
    Your story touched me in ways I cannot express. Please know that you’re remembered. You’re loved by people who don’t even know you. Your sacrifice and those of your family are appreciated.

  19. CJ – this means so much. My family & I volunteer with the Guide Dog Foundation for the Blind (sister charity with Vet Dogs) and have raised 4 pups so far – Zeke was our first! This was about 4 years ago we raised him for the first year of his life. He was raised as a “future guide dog” but was re-routed to be a therapy dog while in training after he left our home. Reading this blog completely makes it worth all the poo cleaning, shoe-chewing, etc… and makes me so grateful to have been a part of helping so many people. Please give Zeke a hug for us, we miss him! And SFC Albert, if you meet him – my sister raised him. They are both wonderful dogs and we are so happy to know that they are so helpful and loved. Thank you so much for everything you all do – and thank you for sharing this story. It’s the little stories like this that make it all worth it.

    Kelsey

    • Kelsey, let me thank YOU for doing that then. No words could ever express how much Zeke has helped me in the mere half hour we’ve spent together since I met him.

  20. Pingback: Photo of the Day – SFC Zeke | You Served® - Veteran and Military Blog and Military Podcast

  21. That’s a beautiful story which brought me to tears. Animals are wonderful in that they’re not caught up in all the mad trappings that life demands; they’re more “human” than most humans. Glad Zeke was able to help you gain a little peace and perspective. A fabulous animal, man and program — best to all :)

  22. CJ, I am so happy that someone had the insight to make dogs accessible to u guys out there. For a sec I thought u were back home. I am a Female cop with PTSD and have hidden it from my supervisors. BUT I HAVE A DOG. I am getting help now. What you said about dogs transmitting rabies out there is a fact but I know if I was out there I would not care. Death is so much part of the climate where our troops are they need the unconditional love and interaction of a pet, it also brings them back home and back to being human and so much more.
    TODAY IS VETERANS DAY, I WANT TO THANK ALL WHO HAVE SACRIFICE SO MUCH FOR US HERE AT HOME. I KNOW YOUR FAMILY HAVE MISSED YOU ALL SO MUCH AND WILL NEVER BE ABLE TO MAKE UP FOR THE LOST TIME. MY WISH IS YOU ALL WHO ARE SERVING COME HOME, BE SAFE, THANK YOU.

  23. A big WOW for this. I was touched with your story. This story is unique having a dog or what I call him therapeutic dog. Unlike humans, they are there to listen and sit with you, no negative comments no harsh statements but his presence and a sweet look from Zeke. I truly believe need a dog like him too. You awe Zeke a lot thinking he has a very busy schedule.

  24. I don’t think I could live without a dog in our household. We’ve had a pet dog ever since I was born. No matter how mad or sad or aggravated I am I can go pet and sit next to Argos (our current dog) and just chill out. I’ve heard and read that dogs can sense a person’s mood and I would stand by that statement just based on my own experiences. Also, with dogs or even pets in general, they don’t keep a grudge. You’re yelling at them one minute to get out of the garbage and then next minute they are up in your face, licking you.

    I never would’ve thought that they trained and had these vet dogs. I think that’s awesome.

  25. I am an animal lover as are my three kids they are adults now my daughter is 21 yrs my two sons are 23 and mike just turned 25. Mike graduated from high school in June of 2004 and enlisted in the Navy. He excelled in his training and loved his job. He also was a patriot Michael was a good kid turned Man.After four years Mike was offered a bonus to reinlist and A very important position in his chosen field.Mike was a CTR petty officer 1st class. He was attached to a teem of eliet seals and did his job very well. My oldest son was deployed in July of 2011 to Afghanistan and he was killed by a RPG that struck the CH-47Chinook that was transporting him in the Wardak Province, Afghanistan. The single most devistating, tragity in my other two childrens and my life!!When we were making arrangements for Mikes funeral we just knew that an organization called NEADS was what he would have wanted. In short this charitable org.traines K-9′s for solders who come home from war and have tramatic injuries,disabilaties, and so on. It takes aprox Thirty thousand dollars to train one dog then this wonderfull organization Gives the dog to a needy war vetran free of charge!

  26. God bless you brave soldier! You are doing such important duty, but you also have to take care of yourself and your family. No one is happy if you turn into a basket case, excuse me. You have to be strong for yourself and family. I would seek out others and you will see that you are not alone, although only soldiers or those in war zones could truly empathize with what you have went through. OK so you know talking about things seems to me like a never ending circle, getting me no further along in life. How about you, it seems like a CD skipping in place, although that is an old analogy perhaps, or even much older a record w a scratch. So to move forward there are many options, reupping, retraining, entering society w so many other military. I have a business idea for you or your spouses or significant others, friends to pursue. It is strictly legitimate at home or away even through the internet potentially or direct marketing of an incredible product. The company provides instant benefits, plus pays 100% commission, and offers the opportunity for incredible residual retirehttp://www.chaimgold.makemoneyonlinenowusa.com/ment income through the matrix program. This is no scam the company has been around since 1920′s.
    God bless all of our brave courageous soldiers and their families! Have a great and please safe holiday!

  27. What a wonderful story to read from a deployed Soldier, and at the same time, what a wonderful story for a deployed story to “have” to tell. I can specially relate to how pets have the unique ability to make us feel human in a world of chaos, loneliness, business, stress, and everything else (that has and does not have a name) we experience during deployments. Our TMC had two dogs, and our MiTT had a dog during our deployment…they were not labeled “therapy” dogs but wow, did they make a difference in our days! Thank you for sharing your story with us.

    Aurora

  28. Is there anyone here that would know more about helping out a Vet in need of a wheel chair?

    http://www.indiegogo.com/projects/wounded-army-ranger-veteran-needs-a-new-wheel-chair/x/5173519

    Thank you for your time, it’s really appreciated

    Tim

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