Sunday, April 22, 2012

Busy Weeks or is it months?

Sorry for the delay in getting back to blogging. We (Iris and I) have been very busy. Other than that continuous drone of doctors and more doctors we have had a number of really neat things happening.

First off, UPDATE on the Hero Dog Contest. Iris is sitting in 15th place nationwide in the service dog group. This is one of the largest group categories and it's great to be in the top 15 but there is not donation made for 15th place to America's VetDogs. So I am attempting to learn new ways to get the word out without having to sell my blood or cutting off an arm.

I do not want to annoy people with reminders all the time but the only way to ask for votes is to ask for votes so I understand if someone blocks me or un-friends me but I hope people are able to help.

This morning I spent an hour plus going through different tweeter # and @ tags hoping to focus my future followers in the news and radio groups to follow and get the word out about Iris and the Hero Dog Awards. Time will tell as to how well this avenue works. I can say that in the past couple weeks I have gone from a couple followers on Twitter to having 46 at this moment. From talking to people that is a pretty good jump in followers. If anyone knows of opportunities out there for Iris & I to get the word out a shout out would be greatly appreciated.

On that note I will be involved in a number of public events over the coming few weeks. I was contacted by EastConn which is an alternative educational school in Northeast CT, to come in and speak about life with a service dog. I am really looking forward to this because sharing with the youth of America is something that can truly change lives. I will let you all know how that goes once it happens.

Next Sunday Iris and I get to go back to Smithtown NY to take part in a Lions Club dinner. This is a America's VetDog appearance were we will be representing the Foundation and VetDog's so hopefully I will not embarrass them to much. Being asked to be a part of any event is always an honor but being asked to come and speak for the Guidedog Foundation and America's VetDogs is something I could never see myself turning down. They have done so much for so many veterans out there that now live product happy lives because of being paired with their own service dog.

Last week, Sat the 14th we were asked to come to Smithtown to partake in an interview with Bodega Studio's for a documentary that will show how these amazing dogs change lives. I was very humbled to be asked to do this and actually shocked that I was able to pull it off without tears flowing while speaking about the changes in my life. Bodega Studios has traveled all over to speak to other veterans that have received dogs through other trainers also but in my opinion probably has never seen a facility like the Guide Dog Foundation & America's VetDogs has hidden away in Smithtown, NY on Long Island. Hopefully this documentary will help other veterans who have been faced with the tough times that happen when service ends and living as a civilian begins.

Now that we have cut our teeth on speaking and filming we are hoping to get noticed by the local news stations as a story. Getting seen is the best way to get votes. So yes now that the updates are gone here is the link to go vote again today tomorrow and every day till voting closes in June 2012.

As seen on many links on FaceBook and Twitter:

Northeast CT has one of the finalist in the Hero Dog Contest. Iris is a Rescued Lab mix that is teamed with me to help me with seizures and hearing issues. Last week Iris and I were interviewed by Bodega Studios for a new Documentary about Dog's of Honor. Please help bring a win to CT and America's VetDog and help other disabled veterans be able to restart their lives. Check out her voting page  where you can vote every day.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Trip to the Casino

Saturday evening we decided to try something new for both of us. Iris, Melanie and myself all trotted off to the Mohegan Sun Casino. We did this knowing there was a chance that we would not be allowed in because they are a sovereign nation and do not have to follow ADA rules. To our relief not one person asked us to leave and we walked all over the inner halls. The bells and whistles were a bit unnerving for me but Iris being the trooper she is accepted it as a new experience.

We ran into friends Nancy and Brenna and ate at Johnie Rocket's, The humans ate and Iris watch people watching her. One thing we did figure out is that you can get a workout just walking around there. We wanted to hit as many of the 21 and under spaces as we could and we did have to backtrack a few times giving us an even longer walk. We have put it into the rainy day spaces for those days that the weather is not permitting for a good walk outdoors. One of the drawbacks is the smoking which I became aware of quickly but they do a pretty good job filtering the air and since we were not in the casino proper it was not something that made me want to get out quickly.

On another note Thursday last week Mel had her first regular season lax game which did not go all that well but Iris had a blast hanging out watching it none the less. After the game the three of us went to Paul's Pasta in Groton. One of the things about having a Service Dog is that you end up having to answer lots of questions and educating people as we travel. Paul's is a great restaurant that sits right up against the Thames's river. The views are great and the food is even better. When we got there the line was not that bad which is always a hit or miss but the young lady taking names was not aware of the ADA rules on Service Dogs. She immediately told us that we could not eat there. I have learned that getting a response like that is not a dead end so in a non-confrontational voice I mention that she is a service dog which by law allows her to go into any public place. I make a point of making sure I do not ad emotion into my voice because I do not wish to hurt future service animals chance of having a peaceful meal or entrance.

Luckily for me the owner realized that there was a conversation going on (she was very nearby) and she came over and explained to the young employee that they have no issues with service animals. They then even found us a great spot where Iris could comfortably rest without worries of being in someones way.  I am very grateful for having such understanding people here in the Northeast. Those times were people are not so understanding I make sure that I have access to information available to educate. Most people are very open to learning about how service dogs work and how well they are behaved. In case anyone else out there has a service animal I can recommend that using a phone or an iPod are great ways to keep forms of information. I have pdf's in all my devices and offer to let people read about what the ADA requires and also helpful hints that I have downloaded from sources on the Internet. I also offer to send an email right from wherever we are so they can further research about what their rights are.

Yes I like to make it clear that they have rights also and I am not forcing my rights on them. This alone tends to disarm whomever I am speaking with. I have never threatened to go to the police because I find that something that put's stress in to the mix and that is not good for them or me. I have however on one occasion asked that I be allowed to simply video the conversation of them asking me to leave their facility. I have only done this once but it immediately changed the way the conversation was going. They owners son changed his mind about reading the rules and allowed me to stay. After I finished my meal they came over and talked to me some more asking questions about Vetdogs and why I have the dog.

This is another area that I personally do not have a problem talking about but the ADA is very specific as to the kinds of questions we as a team are allowed to be asked. I answer questions freely because it helps in keeping peace and shows that Iris and I have a bond that could not be duplicated by other means. Learning more about what Iris does for me has never been a negative for me. Well I think that I have been on my soapbox enough today. If anyone has questions about Iris or the laws please ask anytime. I am forever grateful to The Guidedog Foundation & America's VetDogs for bringing Iris into my life. I will go to any length to help grow the awareness of the great things they do for the vision impaired and veterans.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

American Hero Dog Awards

OK Iris my service dog that was freely given to me by America's VetDog's and the Guide Dog Foundation, is in the running for the Hero Dog Award in the service dog category. This may not sound like a big deal but the award is something that the American Humane Association is doing and will give more recognition to America's VetDog's and the Guide Dog Foundation. Now that I have had Iris there is no way I could ever repay them for what they have done for me so I am making it my own private cause to push awareness and help raise money so other veterans can experience the joy I have found.

So here are a few things I am planning on tacking over the next few months. I have already spoken to a few of the staff and teachers at QVCC a local community college in Danielson, CT about running a 3rd party fundraiser. I am hoping to expand that to include other CC in CT and RI. (I live on the boarder of CT/RI and spend a few days a week in RI at the VA Hospital.)  I also hope to contact the local TV and Radio stations in hopes of getting the word out not only the Hero Dog Contest but VetDogs and The Guidedog Foundation. So if anyone is reading this and has points of contacts the referral would be great.

My Sister works at Yale in New Haven and sits on a number of boards. We talked a few days ago about getting Yale involved in some form of sponsorship also. I will be looking into getting the Foundations public relations involved in guiding my sister and myself in how to best make this work.

Now for everyone out there please pass on to all your friends this link to get Iris votes I am not able to track every vote but I do know from some of the emails I have gotten from friends I have never met before now that the words has gotten out to at least 20 states. I would love to be able to say that we have voters from all 50 states voting everyday. If anyone has other ideas they would like to get into the mix I promise I'll do my part to get it moving along. Iris and I will travel anywhere to help the foundation (VetDogs/Guidedog) just let us know.

Thank you all for reading and please pass the link ( and my email address out and together we can help raise money and awareness to the life changing qualities of a service dog for a veteran.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Trials and tribulations

OK I know I was going to actually "try" to post on a regular bases but that just has not been possible so I will go for the when I can method of posting.

The past couple weeks have been full of great times and of course the perpetual medical visits. A week ago I was honored with a phone call from the Guide Dog Foundation Alumni Council asking if I would be willing to apply for the open spot. What an honor for me and Iris to be asked. For me it was and still is something that I would really enjoy being a part of. The Guide Dog Foundation & America's VetDogs has done so much for me that I would do anything to help spread the word and help others to find out about that great life one can have because of a service/guide dog.

The process included having to apply in writing with a resume and cover letter. Been so long since I have had to do anything like that I will admit I was a bit overwhelmed at first. Lucky for me I found a resume from my old life and did a new one that I hope showed life since Iris. The cover letter was the hardest and easiest part for me. Iris has done so much for my attitude about life that discussing that is easy, I did however want to discuss life before Iris and why she had changed my life completely. That was not an easy subject to broach because to put those dark times on paper is definitely an ego deflation.

Tomorrow I get to do a conference call with board members and whoever else they decide on to interview me. This should not be all that hard for me since I am a social person and enjoy talking about Iris. If I do well who knows maybe I will be selected to be on the council.

Today is April 1st which also means that Voting has started today for the Hero Dog Awards. I hope that everyone out there can vote for Iris. Here voting page is and you can vote once a day until Jun. Iris is definitely a hero to me. She even had another opportunity to show off her abilities yesterday keeping me company in the ER yet again. I really wish that I would not have issues but to have her there for me during the uncomfortable times means so much. (I am home now but will admit that I am still rather toasted.)

OK So please if you FB Tweet or any other social media please spread the word about Iris

Thank you

Help support other Veterans like me who have a medical need for a Service Dog Like Iris!

To make a donation that can change a life... Contact the
Guide Dog Foundation® or
America's VetDogs®, The Veteran's K-9 Corps® at

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