Me, Andi and The Appalachian Trail

Who Am I?
2008 Afghanistan

October 10, 2008 would be the date that would forever change me. On this day, my convey was attacked multiple times by the Taliban.  To this day, I carry the sniper bullet that penetrated the door of my Humvee. The bullet is my reminder of ultimate sacrifice many of my friends made over that year of 2008!   You see, I am a wife, mom, sister, friend, student and a wounded warrior with the unseen injuries of war.  It has taken me over six years to publicly acknowledge my disability.

Click here to see my story (Disclaimer: Dates wrong in the book)

Andi, My Life Saver

Andi, my service dog, is an extraordinarily amazing dog who has changed my life and made me a better person than I had become after returning from Afghanistan. Unfortunately, my emotional state from my PTSD may have exerted direct adverse influence on the mental well being of Andi.

You may be wondering how I can make such a claim…well I am currently a Master’s of Canine Life Science’s student. I have been researching studies on the interaction between handler mental well-being and the health and behavior of their service dogs. Research has shown that the psychopathology in the handler can cause behavioral changes in the dog.

There’s light at the end of the preverbal tunnel…

Through my master’s program, I have gained knowledge in helping Andi to establish new emotional responses through an exercise program to assist in calming her and lessening her anxiety and also through behavioral modifications such as operant conditioning, counterconditioning.

Andi is’t the only one needing counterconditioning, in fact, it is me who probably needs it more than her!

The one thing I found peace in, since returning from my deployments, was when Andi and I hiked. Mind you, we’d only hike for no more than 2-4 hours at a time.  Andi also seemed to really enjoy our time out in nature.

SO…back in June, I came up with the crazy idea of Andi and me hiking part of the AT. BUT…after reading Zach’s book, I came up with an even crazier idea of us hiking the whole thing! And so here we are today.

The next couple of blogs will catch you up on our training progress. See you soon!

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