May 20, 2002óGround
Zero Plus 251
"How To Be A Therapy
Dog Of Vigilance!"
Editor, New York City Combat Correspondent News
GROUND ZERO, New York City, May 20--Vigilance has gone
to the dogs--real dogs.
They are called "therapy
and chosen for their job, the dogs are used to help people connect
with compassion and unconditional love after a tragedy, or when
they are sick or lonely. Some of these dogs were
used to help trauma victims of the Terrorist attack on September
11 fill the void of emptiness the loss of loved ones created
deep in their soul.
Steve Shlocak owns
three "Nine Eleven Therapy Dogs."
The dogs were adopted by the firemen of Engine Company 24 Ladder
Company 5 long before the attack on the World Trade Center last
Shlocak, who owns a famous New York landmark bar and restaurant
called Chumley's in the Chelsea district of New York City, has
three such dogs who provide solace to men, women and children
suffering the fallout from Nine Eleven Terrorism.
The dogs live both in his bar and restaurant--historically known
as a "watering hole" for famous writers and
poets such as Steinbeck and Hemmingway--and at the local fire
station. Besides pictures of world-famous writers
who visited his establishment over the years, the pub also contains
a Hall of Heroes, boasting pictures of fallen firemen who died
heroically saving others.
When he first moved
to New York, Shlocak lived next to the fire station. His
dogs became mascots of the firemen stationed there. They
provided unconditional love and comfort to the men who fought
fires round the clock.
When 9-11 occurred,
the dogs enjoyed a special mission--take the pain and suffering
from the firemen, their loved ones, and victims when no human
medicine or comfort seemed to do the job.
Shlocak recalls how
one dog brought a young child out her deep depression.
Each day immediately following the Terrorist attack, the little
girl and her mother would sit at the Family Assistance Center
waiting to hear word about her father's plight--was he dead
or alive? The little girl said nothing. Social
and medical workers and her mother and psychologists all tried
to get her to speak, but she said not a single word.
dog, sensing her loneliness and pain, sat next to her, his head
on her lap, his large brown eyes looking up at her. She
the news came that probably there were no more survivors, the
little girl was overhead talking to the "therapy dog."
She told the dog about her father, how brave he was, and how
had died for her. She didn't speak to any human
being, but only to the dog each day, until the pain and suffering
inside her finally burst into a flood of tears and she began
to grieve, releasing within her stored anger and denial of her
Shlocak, many therapy dogs return to their homes from a long
day's work with the victims of a tragedy totally drained, exhausted,
some hardly able to walk.
somehow connect with a person's pain. It is as if they
mind-meld with the victim, sharing the weight of the suffering,
assuming it, consuming it," he said.
His dogs not
only help victims, but also serve as members of a Hero Squad.
They have attended over 13 burials of firemen who died, sitting
quietly, honoring those who died.
Prior to owning
the bar, Shlocak worked in psychotherapy. He used his
dogs as tools to get people to break through their denial and
pain, urging them to start talking about the suffering so they
could work through it.
a natural instinct to help someone who is suffering," he
said. "People feel comfortable talking to a dog when
they don't to others."
He said the
dogs undergo an intensive training program and are kept by individuals
who volunteer their time and service.
All dogs are
certified, he said. In a book written by Allen Schoen
and Pam Proctor entitled "Love, Miracles and Animal Healing,"
the authors report: " By their very presence in our
midst, animals awaken in us the desire to respond and to love."
The oldest and largest therapy dog
organization, Therapy Dogs International (TDI) was founded in
1976 and has members in all 50 states, including Canada.
It was started in 1976 by Elaine Smith, formerly of Hillside,
NJ, now a resident of California. A registered nurse working
in England, Smith observed the benefits of pets interacting
with patients. She noticed how the patients reacted to the daily
visits of the chaplain and his companion, a golden retriever.
Upon returning to the United States, Smith was determined to
bring the concept of pet therapy to health care facilities.
She says, "Four-footed
therapists give something medical science canít do, without
the use of drugs. It has been clinically proven that through
petting, touching and talking with the animals, patientsí blood
pressure is lowered, stress is relieved and depression is eased."
Owners of dogs volunteer
their pets and time. Dogs are certified by the American
Kennel Association's "Good Neighbor Test" to assure
their ability to interact with people under severe stress.
Besides disasters, the dogs are used in psychotherapy, to visit
hospitals, and provide comfort for aged.
As I spoke
with those involved in bringing comfort through therapy dogs,
I wondered what it would be like if each Parent of Vigilance
were to assume the attitude of a Therapy Dog. Reaching
inside a child to touch his or her inner soul with safety and
security, with trust and benevolence, is the key to driving
out the Terrorism that lingers within. Animals,
such as dogs, have such an ability. They sense one's emotional
pain and sniff it out, providing unconditional concern for the
innermost feelings of those who suffer from it.
child, I grew up with dogs. They were my best friends,
my solace to sores on my soul. They loved me unconditionally,
and I was able to love them back with the same passion.
I knew if nothing else, I had my dog. And my dog
knew it. I was always safe with him.
often times, as adults, forget that Fear, Intimidation and Complacency
takes roots in the deep wells of the mind--especially in children.
Sometimes it takes a non-human element to bring them out of
the darkness, to provide safety and security so the child can
face his or her Fears, Intimidations and Complacencies.
Dogs are the Bloodhounds of Vigilance. They can sniff
out the pain, isolate it, bring it to the surface where it can
flood away in tears, or be exposed for treatment.
about us, as Parents of Vigilance, thinking more in terms of
a Therapy Dog than as a parent or guardian. If we
study nature's best teachers, we can learn a great deal about
how to cross the barriers between ourselves and our children.
Perhaps laying our head in our child's lap is one way.
Perhaps just sitting next to our child and hugging him or her
without speaking a word, imagining ourselves a Therapy Dog,
transmits more love than a thousand or a million words might.
Building trust and
confidence in a child to share his or her innermost feelings
is not an easy task. Therapy Dogs are often exhausted
at the end of a day's work, as though they took the burden
of the victims into their being and its weight was onerous.
It takes the elements
of Vigilance for us to assumed such a role. It requires
us to be filled with Courage, Conviction and the ability to
take the Right Action. Sometimes that Right Action
is just sitting next to our child, saying nothing, assuming
the role of a human comforter rather than a teacher or guardian.
Just being an "unconditional friend," is often all
that is needed for a child to release the "secrets"
within, to let the pain flood.
If one is unable to get
a dog, or a pet that can be loved and give love back, then perhaps
the family can get a toy dog, a stuffed one that it uses to
"pretend" to be a dog. If mothers and
fathers use the dog as a tool to love unconditionally with a
child, perhaps it can help strengthen the communication between
adult and child.
There are no rules to effecting
Vigilance between ones self and others. Except
for one overriding rule--that the more bridges you build between
honest communication about Fears, Intimidations and Complacencies
the safer you are from Terrorism.
Be a Therapy Dog Of Vigilance.
TO: May 19--"I Love You, Unk!"