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Gogo Gadget Service Dog

The following was written by Easter Seals Greater Houston’s client Celeste who has received and is training her service dog through our Veterans Service Dog Program with the expertise of our Texas Veterans + Family Alliance partner My Service Dog, Inc.

“I want to start by saying thank you so much for all the work that Easter Seals Greater Houston’s and My Service Dog does for Veterans.

I knew of My Service Dog’s program but never really thought it was something that would be for me. I was still adjusting to everything that had changed for me in the last year due to my injury. A friend and co-worker, Kim Gunter, that works with My Service Dog, just happened to be at work on a day when I was having a really tough day. She sat down with me and talked to me about the possibilities of a service dog for me and gave me the contact info. I honestly did not think much more about it until she gave me two names and phone numbers and asked me to just call. So, I did.

I first called Easter Seals Greater Houston’s Veterans, Service Members and Military-Connected Family Program. Talking to Dr. Jennifer Wright was wonderful, she was so kind and compassionate as she explained the various programs available through Easter Seals Greater Houston. She even assured me at the end of our conversation that while I was feeling like I would never be the same again, to remember to be kind to myself. It was a great conversation. I then reached out to Allie Keaton with My Service Dog and talked about what I was hoping to gain from the program. She talked me through what to expect, the work that was involved, and assured me that while it sounded overwhelming that she would be there every step of the way. And she has been.

After I was approved for the program, it still did not really seem real. I was receiving great information weekly and starting to see all the cute puppies in training in the Veteran’s Train Your Own Service Dog class. I thought I was getting a puppy out of an earlier litter but none of them tested out to be a service dog. I was stressed and disappointed at the time but once they showed me the testing video where my Gogo was selected, it all made perfect sense. And now that I have Gogo, I know that she was meant to be mine.

Gogo is the youngest puppy of the class. She has been a blessing and a handful. I’m not saying that she is not a lot of work because she is! But she is a joy and has helped me already on days when I am not feeling my best. Allie has been amazing through this whole process. She checks in on us regularly, we train in person, and have a weekly online group class. I know just 3 weeks into having my Gogo that I would not be able to do this without Allie’s support. Gogo has been to restaurants, stores, two of my offices including a spa and everywhere that she goes she turns heads, and everyone falls in love. She was welcomed at my main office with a baby shower! My co-workers struggle to let her train and not baby her, but we are all learning together so we can make sure she is the best at her job. 

We still have a lot of training ahead of us, but every week Gogo makes great progress, and we are working hard at everything we have learned together. I never knew how much I needed the support and love from my Gogo in training and from My Service Dog and Easter Seals Greater Houston. Thank you does not seem like enough!”

Learn more about Easter Seals Greater Houston’s broad range of Veterans, Service Members, and Military-Connected Family Programs!

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Celebrating Our Military Families and Their Successes

As Military Family Month, November, is coming to a close we continue to celebrate our families and their successes daily.   Having started our Veterans Services soon after we affiliated with Easter Seals in 2011 we began to understand the need and realized that our current programming would be off a huge asset and would translate easily. We initially started with service dogs and to date we have paired 25+ service dogs with veterans. Since then we have become the lead in VSO collaborative called Texas Veterans + Family Alliance serving thousands, we are especially proud of our counseling and mental health services open to not only Veterans and service members but also to family members. These are just a few of our most recent successes and we are truly honored to be in this space serving our military after they have served us. 

“F” is a female Veteran who has been in recovery for five years.  She has been attending AA meetings and has a sponsor she trusts and can turn to.  She has embraced the arts, especially dancing, as an escape.  Her fear is having a craving, because the people around her often talk about doing drugs and drinking.  She talked to her Easter Seals Greater Houston therapist about feeling exposed and vulnerable, so together they worked out plans for setting boundaries, and being mindful of her own feelings and of warning signs.  They also created a Crisis Response Plan, so that she has a plan of action for when a substance use crisis arises.

“H” is a Veteran who has worked all his life as a laborer, and that physical labor has caused degenerative spine disease.  Over the years as the pain worsened, he became addicted to meth.  H and his Easter Seals therapist are working together to navigate what he needs to do apply for disability and to stay clean.  Just recently, H discovered how much being in nature and working with nature helps him.  He has taken up rock collecting and rock polishing, and his meth use has decreased.

This story is about small steps.  Veteran “I” has misused alcohol for decades.  A week ago, he stopped for two days.  What caused the change?  He took a trip to see an old Marine friend, and saw in him a different way of living.  I told his Easter Seals therapist, “I work all day, drink all night, and then do it again the next day.  I realize now I don’t have to live this way.”

“D” is a female Veteran who has always drank and smoked.  Recently she got “the job”- the one she never felt like she’d ever get- and that one life change has increased her self-esteem tenfold.  D and her Easter Seals therapist have talked about how the job has made her feel so fulfilled, that she has realized she doesn’t need to drink and smoke anymore.

“L” is a Veteran and a single dad.  He has drank and smoked as long as he can remember, but after attending a retreat focused on mental health, he became motivated to find more purpose.  He and his Easter Seals therapist have been working to find ways for him to reconnect with his daughter.

“R” is a Veteran who has been in recovery for 23 years, and he faithfully meets with his Easter Seals therapist every two weeks.  R is knowledgeable about mental health, and he understands sobriety- most especially how fragile sobriety can be.  R has family with substance use issues, and they are living with his mother and not providing her with appropriate care.  R and his Easter Seals therapist have talked about how the stress weighs on him, and how he does not have to turn to substance.  R has taken up painting the interior of his house.  A task with a beginning and an end that he can control, and that he can see the result.

“M” is Veteran who drinks a lot.  As he said to his Easter Seals therapist, “If I’m not working, I’m drinking.”  M is participating in PE or Prolonged Exposure, a specific type of cognitive behavioral therapy that teaches individuals to gradually approach trauma-related memories, feelings and situations.  PE has helped M deal with his PTSD, and he recently reported to his therapist that he is drinking only on weekends, and no longer throughout the evening after work each weekday.     

Congratulations to you all! Learn more and get involved!   

Services to Veterans, Military and their family members FY 2020 to date:

357 Adult Veterans or family members are receiving mental health supports.

38 Adult Veterans or family members received I&R supports.

93 Children of Veterans are receiving mental health supports.

7 Children of Veterans received I&R supports.

201 Adult Veterans or family members are receiving individual counseling.

166 Adult Veterans or family members reported substance use concerns.

40 Children of Veterans are receiving individual counseling.

5 Children of Veterans reported substance use concerns.

Easter Seals Greater Houston is proudly serving current Service members, Veterans and their families in Harris and all surrounding counties.Our reach can extend to those throughout the state who are interested in tele-mental health services. Our mission is to assist military-connected families in building the lives they want during and after the military to meet their needs around reintegration, stability, wellness, and growth. Our goal is not to duplicate services offered in the community, but rather be an easy point of entry for finding and connecting with needed resources. Learn more here and contact us at 346.330.3859 or Veterans@eastersealshouston.org to get plugged into Service Members, Veterans and Military-Connected Family Services.

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