Katie & Callie

Katie & Callie
katieI have been working with PurposeFULL Paws, a nonprofit corporation created for the purpose of raising and training service dogs and assistance dogs to work with disabled individuals and offer them more independence. Through this organization, I was introduced to Callie, a charismatic and loving labrador retriever trained to assist me with tasks I have trouble with due to PTSD.


I do not usually discuss my disability, and it may come as a surprise to some to learn that I have PTSD. Through treatment and therapy, I have learned to manage the major symptoms and lead a relatively normal life. I have also learned and accepted that PTSD is a life-long condition that will continue to present me with difficulties, particularly with certain tasks.


My goal in working with Callie is to lessen the impact these difficulties have on my life and she has already been a tremendous help. Rather than shying away from situations that would normally present a problem for me, working with Callie has allowed me to address them head-on.


Callie has been trained to provide me with space in public places, making something as simple as a trip to a crowded grocery store more manageable for me, and significantly reducing my anxiety related to being out with other people. She is extremely well behaved, and will lay patiently at my feet at a restaurant or in meetings and remain attentive and at my side during trips to court.


In addition to these more visible tasks, Callie also helps me with tasks at home when her vest is off. She responds to my nightmares by waking me up and staying near me until the anxiety has passed. Callie helps me to stay on a schedule, reminds me to take my medication, and responds to me when I am behaving differently. She leans up against me or rests her head on my leg when I am upset. Although simply a part of her nature, Callie is also an extremely happy dog whose tail is always wagging, and this is a great source of comfort and relief from stress.


I can’t express how much of a difference working with Callie has made on my life!


{Original photo by Miguel Martinez- migmartinez.com }



Caleb & Claire

Caleb & Claire

Caleb writes   –I don’t know where to start….Claire was made for me.  Her sense of humor makes me laugh every day.  She isn’t even trained to “fight depression”, yet she is depression’s worst nightmare!  When I go into crowded public areas, she helps me remain calm by just being there.  When my alarm sounds at 9:30 in the morning, she drowns me in loving, slobbery wet kisses to get me up.  When she knows it is time to eat, she will sit by my medicine cabinet while she stares laser beams through my eyes, reminding me to take my medicine.When I’m driving down the road, I no longer have panic attacks because I’m distracted by her sticking her head out the window and watching her drool roll down my windows- but I don’t mind, I just laugh.  When her head isn’t out the window, she is following light “glares” with her eyes and once in a while I will hear her nose punch my (car) headboard as she lunges for it.  She brightens every minute of my day and I am only sad when I have to crate her.  Claire was made to combat PTSD & depression. 


Jackie writes   —Caleb Swartz… So many things come to mind when I think of him. He’s brave, smart, kind and humble. He’s a friend, a brother, and someone I am so proud to call my other-half. Caleb is so many wonderful things but he is also a wounded warrior, a Marine scarred not only on the outside but also within from his part in the fight to keep our country safe from foreign enemies. He has carried these scars for him for a number of years now.When I first met Caleb, he had freshly completed a program through the VA to help him better understand and cope with his PTSD and TBI. He did very well with it but still has trouble coping, some parts of the year being much worse than others. You see, towards the end of April during his tour in Fallujah, Caleb experienced two very life changing events very close to one another. He lost a brother and mentor and experienced being hit by an IED first hand. Even though these events took place many years ago, he is still haunted by the memories and they affect him significantly. Last year, it hurt him so badly. I felt so helpless watching him fight the internal battle. He tried so hard not to let it get to him but in the end, it caused him to slip into depression.


It was a few months after he had reached his low point that he learned about Purposeful Paws. Caleb loves dogs and the whole time I listened to him explain the program to me, I saw genuine excitement. It warmed my heart to see the old Caleb coming back out so I had to learn more. I read about service dogs and how they can help those with disabilities that can’t be seen. They can help people with seizures, autism, and (yes) even PTSD. Caleb received a lot of support and encouragement so he filled out the application. A short period of time went by before he received word back. He had been accepted to have a service dog of his very own. I wish I could have captured that moment, he was so excited.


The day Caleb went to meet the Purposeful Paws staff was the day he met his new best friend. He came home having fallen IN LOVE with a cute German Shepherd by the name of Claire. Over-time, Caleb continued to work with Claire and I noticed such an improvement in his demeanor. He was happy and excited. Every day that he got to work with Claire was a good day. Caleb and Claire were two peas in a pod. Finally, in March of 2015, Claire came home.


Claire has changed Caleb so much in the short time she’s been with us. I no longer worry about anxiety attacks when I’m not home because he has Claire. He has a much better sleep schedule because she won’t let him sleep in too late. Keeping depression away is an easy feat for her because of her wonderful personality and the connection she has with Caleb. I won’t say that Claire has brought out the good qualities in Caleb because he’s already so sweet and loving. She has simply amplified these good qualities and continues to give him companionship. She’s with him literally every step of the way. Not only has Claire given Caleb (any myself) a new family in Purposeful Paws, she has given him the greatest gift of all: being a best friend.  ~ Jackie Wandler



Max & Page

Max’s Success Story
I first knew that Page would change our lives when we met her the first time. Max was playing with the dogs and I wasn’t paying much attention, since I was talking to the wonderful staff there. All of a sudden, I noticed Max running across the room, dogs at his heels. I thought they were playing, but Page’s trainer, Erin, observed Page’s behavior and said Ben must be scared of something. I doubted it – he seemed ok to me at first glance – but asked him anyhow. It turned out that there was a bee nearby, something Max is very scared of. Page saw he was scared, followed him across the room, and stood facing the bee, protecting him. Once the bee was gone, she turned and nuzzled his hand, completely distracting him from something he is terrified of. Ordinarily, Max would have asked to leave, in case the bee came back. Instead, he ran around with Page and forgot his fear entirely.


One of Max’s biggest struggles is with new things – he has a tremendously difficult time starting something new, adjusting to changes in the house or at school, and dealing with change. Bringing Page home was a huge change. She needed attention and care and she changed the way our household runs. Not surprisingly, that was a big struggle for Max. When we went to pick Page up, he pulled me aside and said he didn’t want her after all. He balked at bringing her home and tried to convince me that we should stay overnight near the Purposefull Paws center and get her the next day instead. When we did bring Page home, Max complained for weeks that it didn’t “feel right” having Page. It gave him a “weird feeling.” So, I did a lot of the work the first few weeks, and worried that Page would bond more to me than to Max, that she would feel rejected and give up on him.


Boy, was I wrong. Page never gave up. She followed Max around, she nuzzled him when he was upset, she brought him toys. It took a few weeks, but her persistence paid off. Now Max can’t wait to see her every day after school and he does the majority of the work taking care of her. I can’t imagine how, but Page seemed to know that this transition would be hard for Ben and she helped him through it.


Last month, we went on vacation and stayed in a house Max isn’t used to. Page slept next to him and when he worried about new noises or complained of having a “weird feeling,” just her presence reassured him. The night before the first day of school, Max was sure he was having a panic attack and said he felt “weird” all night. Page was right at his side, following him around the house, bringing him socks and toys, snuggling with him. Although Max has a bunk bed, when he was upset that night, Page hopped right up in bed with him. She nuzzled him and reassured him until he fell asleep. I can’t imagine how she possibly knows what he needs and when he needs it, but she does.


Page and Max were made for each other. He says she gives him a “peaceful feeling,” something he doesn’t have enough of in his life. He also says she’s the best dog in the world. He’s right.



Adysen & Dusty

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Lizzy & Angel

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