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Jeff & TAZIE Visit the Atlanta VA Hospital

Yesterday was a big day – we went back to the VA Hospital where Jeff spent almost two weeks in December of 2009 after we found him unresponsive in his room. Not the happiest Christmas for our family.

As so often happens, it turns out to be one of the best things that has ever happened to us. Jeff was blessed to have a brilliant and compassionate psychiatrist – Dr. Marie DeWitt – who really cared and really listened and worked very hard to wean Jeff off over 10 different anti-depressants and anti-psychotic medications that had rendered him a virtual zombie.

It wasn’t easy, he didn’t sleep for days, he couldn’t eat, he fainted because his blood pressure was very difficult to regulate, he had extreme anxiety. It was awful and dangerous and could only be done in a hospital under carefully monitored 24 hour supervision .

Jeff can relate to the veterans he and TAZIE visited with because he was one of them – he knows how hopeless and alone they feel. He reassured them that they are not alone and they are not without hope.

They were curious about how TAZIE helps him and he explained that just her constant presence helps him stay in the moment when his anxiety threatens to take over. He said that his love and bond for TAZIE has shown him that he is capable of caring. One of the many terrible consequences of PTSD is becoming insulated and shut off – CAROLINE pushed on that door and TAZIE blew it open. TAZIE loves Jeff unconditionally and the feeling is mutual – something Jeff wasn’t sure he was capable of until TAZIE came into his life.

I was extremely surprised that Jeff went into such intimate detail about his experience – beginning with his two deployments to Iraq, his struggle with alcohol, his battle with rage, his inability to sustain relationships, his loss of identity and purpose when he could no longer be a soldier. I heard things I’d never heard before and almost felt like I was intruding on something very private and personal that should only be shared with fellow soldiers. I was humbled and honored to be there.

I believe that Jeff’s message did give some of these veterans reason to believe that there can be better days ahead and I know that TAZIE made them smile and feel better at least for the moment. Jeff hopes to make this a regular part of their routine and visit once a month.

I hope that the VA will consider having “resident” therapy dogs so that these patients can feel the calming peace provided by these furry balls of love.

Please Comment!

Comments (7)

  • Cece Miller

    Jeff, You continue to inspire me with the progress you have made. I look and you sometimes and think where you would be without TAZIE and it makes me happy to know you have her in your life. You are a true warrior. Carol, You are a beautiful mother and I can’t wait to hug you in a few short days. You never cease to amaze me with your strength and perserverence where Jeff is concerned. I have been so blessed to have you in my life!!

  • Travis V

    It is awesome that ever time I read a new post by you that it always ends up positive and it seems that every time you and TAZIE progress that you are more motivated the next time to keep going. It seems like you have inspired many people and help many, keep up the good work!

  • AlexandraG

    This is a really inspiring story. I’m so happy that Jeff is able to use his difficult past experiences to help others through theirs. I think monthly visits would help the veterans in that hospital a lot. It is always good to have support and know that you are not alone. Congratulations on your progress!

  • VictoriaW

    This story really is amazing. I saw it on CNN and we talked about it in my Assistance Dogs class but it is sometimes hard to remember that there is a person behind this story that had to go through this. I really hope I get to meet Jeff at the reunion in a few weeks. It really is a great idea for the VA to have dogs at their facilities!

  • Kelsey Puliafico

    Ever since Jeff and TAZIE came to visit my assistance dogs 1 class last semester, I always love reading about how they are doing! Jeff has come such a long way in this short time, as has TAZIE. The two of them truly share an incredible bond, and I look forward to reading more about their times together.

  • Austin T

    It is always a treat to read about Jeff and TAZIE! There story is so inspiring and it shows how strong the human/dog bond can be and its awesome effects on the lives of soldiers. I’m glad to hear they are doing so well!

  • Georgianna Honeycutt

    I’m really glad that TAZIE has allowed Jeff to do something as amazing as this. I can only imagine what this meant to the soldiers and to Jeff. It was good to hear in class that he feels in his element there and that he would be happy helping people like this for the rest of his life. I hope that he can help others begin defeating their battle with PTSD like he has.


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