Tag Archives: Florida

Service Dogs for PTSD (And a New Release)

by Kassandra Lamb

PTSD was my specialty when I was a practicing therapist, and yet I realized recently that I’ve never blogged about it to any great extent. Well, now I have a really good reason for doing so.

Lately I’ve become fascinated by the use of service dogs to help people suffering from this disorder. So much so that I’ve started a new mystery series about a woman who trains these service dogs for combat veterans, and her experiences with a variety of clients. (More on the first release in this series in a bit.)

service dog with his veteran handler

A service dog with his veteran handler (public domain, Wikimedia Commons)

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder is the diagnosis given when a person suffers symptoms as a result of exposure to a severe trauma. In the general population, the life-time prevalence rate is 8%, which is pretty high. Only phobias, depression and drug abuse are more common.

The list of symptoms is extensive, so I’m just going to hit on the most common ones, and how service dogs can help manage them.

But first let’s define trauma. This is a word that tends to be overused in our society for anything that makes us feel bad. The best definition I’ve ever heard for trauma comes from Lenore Terr, MD in her book, Unchained Memories (I’m paraphrasing her a little here):

A traumatic event is so emotionally overwhelming that the person experiencing it cannot process it cognitively nor emotionally at the time that it happens.

Such events are often sudden and unexpected. They might be a bad car accident, a natural disaster, a criminal assault, being in combat, etc.

PTSD was first identified in combat veterans. It was once called shell shock or battle fatigue. And this group still has one of the highest rates of PTSD, ranging from 12% (Gulf War vets) to 30% (Vietnam-era vets). The rate of PTSD currently in veterans of the Iraqi and Afghanistan conflicts is 13.8%.

The most common and debilitating of the symptoms are anxiety attacks (triggered by reminders of the trauma), nightmares and flashbacks. Service dogs are trained to pick up on the early stages of these symptoms and interrupt them.

If you have a dog, you know how sensitive they can be to their owner’s moods. When you’re depressed or anxious, they tend to sense it and often try to offer comfort. In service dogs, this natural tendency is enhanced through training and then the dog is taught to do something about it.

I’m still learning about all this myself for my new mystery series, but I know that for nightmares, this may mean waking their handlers by barking or nudging him/her with their noses. The service dogs also provide grounding and a calming effect. Again, if you have a dog (or a cat), you know how soothing it can be to stroke their coat and their silky ears.

hand petting dog

Both human and dog benefit from pets and ear scratches. 🙂 (public domain, Wikimedia Commons)

(Research has been done on this aspect of therapy/service dogs in general. Petting and interacting with them lowers heart rate and blood pressure and improves mood.)

With anxiety attacks, the dog often can alert their human that the attack is starting before the person has become consciously aware of the building anxiety. Then s/he can implement strategies (taught by his/her counselor) to nip the attack in the bud.

Service dogs also make it easier for veterans suffering from PTSD to go out in public. Two other PTSD symptoms are hypervigilance and an exaggerated startle response. Scary things have taken this person by surprise before, so now their nervous system is constantly on the alert, which is not good for their mental nor physical health.

There are two things the service dogs are trained to do to help with this hypervigilance. One is called the cover command. Whenever their human stops moving, the dog turns around and faces the way they came. The dog literally has the person’s back. S/he signals the handler if someone is approaching from behind, usually with a perking of their ears or a tail wag.

The dogs are also trained to step between their handler and anyone approaching them. These may sound like small things to most of us, but for those who suffer from PTSD, they can allow the person to relax a good bit more when out and about in the world.

service dog with his handler

public domain, Wikimedia Commons

This and also the strong sense of connection with the dog are particularly helpful for overcoming one of the most subtle and potentially destructive of the symptoms, a sense of isolation from others. People who have experienced extreme events sometimes are left feeling like they are different from others in some irrevocable way; they may even feel like they are “damaged goods.”

Being more comfortable in public and experiencing the unconditional love of a canine companion can go a long way toward overcoming this feeling of otherness, and help the veteran become more integrated into his/her community.

Combat veterans should only feel set apart in a proud way, that they have served their country well and are respected for their sacrifices. Service dogs can help them hold their heads high and get on with their lives.

(Stay tuned for more about this wonderful boon for veterans as I learn more myself.)

And today is the cover reveal for my new series. Another masterpiece by Melinda VanLone. Ta-da!! (Psst! The book is available for pre-order for just $1.99; it goes up after the release.)

ToKillALabrador FINALTo Kill A Labrador, A Marcia Banks and Buddy Mystery

Marcia (pronounced Mar-see-a, not Marsha) likes to think of herself as a normal person, even though she has a rather abnormal vocation. She trains service dogs for combat veterans with PTSD. Then the ex-Marine owner of her first trainee is accused of murdering his wife, and Marcia gets sucked into an even more abnormal avocation–amateur sleuth.

Called in to dog-sit the Labrador service dog, Buddy, she’s outraged that his veteran owner is being presumed guilty until proven innocent. With Buddy’s help, she tries to uncover the real killer.

Even after the hunky local sheriff politely tells her to butt out, Marcia keeps poking around. Until the killer finally pokes back.

AMAZON US  AMAZON UK   AMAZON CA   AMAZON AUS   APPLE   KOBO

AND, I’m having a Facebook party next week to celebrate the new series. Click here to check it out and sign up. There’ll be lots of prizes and fun!!

FB party banner

Are you a combat veteran or do you know one personally? What obstacles have you/they encountered in the reentry-into-civilian-life process?

Posted by Kassandra Lamb. Kassandra is a retired psychotherapist turned mystery writer. She is the author of the Kate Huntington psychological suspense series, set in her native Maryland, and a new series, the Marcia Banks and Buddy cozy mysteries, set in Central Florida.

We blog here at misterio press once (sometimes twice) a week, usually on Tuesdays. Sometimes we talk about serious topics, and sometimes we just have some fun.

Please follow us so you don’t miss out on any of the interesting stuff, or the fun! (We do not lend, sell nor otherwise bend, spindle or mutilate followers’ e-mail addresses. 🙂 )

Quick, Buy More Toilet Paper!

by Kassandra Lamb

Recently a good part of the country experienced the blizzard of 2016. And now it’s snowing again up north.

Montgomery Co. MD, not far from where we once lived (photo by heado, CC-BY-SA 4.0 International, Wikimedia Commons)

Blizzard of 2016 aftermath, Montgomery Co. MD, not far from where we once lived (photo by heado, CC-BY-SA 4.0 International, Wikimedia Commons)

During the blizzard my native Maryland got about two feet of the white stuff dumped on them. That’s a lot of snow for a state that is technically below the Mason-Dixon line.

But is it really reason to panic?

When did we become such a crisis-oriented society? Oh, yeah, it’s when the media got a foothold…

I’m five feet, four inches tall (I used to be five-six, but hey, old age happens). Yes, two feet is a lot of snow, but it still only comes up to just above my knees. With a little effort, I can walk in it without snowshoes. And with some shoveling and the wonders of modern all-wheel drive, I can drive in it.

When I lived in Maryland, I used to marvel at the run on stores for milk, bread and toilet paper before a snowstorm. I got the milk and bread part, but honestly people, how much time do you plan to spend in the bathroom during the two to three-day period it takes for the snow plows to dig you out? I would think that the 4 to 6 rolls that most households have on hand would suffice.

Have we become such a namby-pamby society that the possibility of running low on toilet paper has us running to the stores? Come on, we’ve got tissues and paper towels and houseplant leaves to supplement before we truly should get desperate.

My point here is that we have been conditioned by the media to go into crisis mode over things that previous generations considered everyday challenges.

Here ya go! Car snowed in; break out the skis. (NW Washington, DC photo by Alejandro Alvarez CC-BY-SA 4.0 International, Wikimedia Commons)

Here ya go! Car snowed in; break out the skis. (NW Washington, DC photo by Alejandro Alvarez CC-BY-SA 4.0 International, Wikimedia Commons)

Funny story. Thursday was grocery shopping day for me when we lived in Maryland, and one week, there was a snowstorm predicted for Friday. I braved the store anyway, and actually we were a little low on TP, so I headed for that aisle.

When I got there, a dozen or so people were staring at bare shelves, with bewildered and anxious expressions on their faces. Surely the store hadn’t sold out of the golden sheets this early in the panic!

Then a store employee walked past. “Hey, didn’t you all see the big display up front. We moved it up by the door.” No, apparently most of us were busily checking our lists or something, not expecting our local grocer to be quite that blatantly mercenary.

I pushed my cart up front and nabbed a precious 4-pack, then went home and reassured my houseplants that their leaves were safe, for now.

We’ve since retired to Florida, but we’re not immune to the hysteria mongering down here. Oh Lordy, there’s a tropical storm headed for the coast. Everybody panic! No, just put away your porch furniture, and to be on the safe side, your grill, because it’s gonna be kind of windy for the next day or two.

In the media’s search for the next big story, they’ve turned this country into the land of fear!

Despite what you see on the evening news, the world is not coming to an end, and you probably don’t need to buy more toilet paper. But you might want to water your houseplants, just in case.

photo by Luis Fernández García CC-BY-SA 3.0 Wikimedia Commons

photo by Luis Fernández García CC-BY-SA 3.0 Wikimedia Commons

What about you? What has the media made you unduly afraid of in recent times?

Posted by Kassandra Lamb. Kassandra is a retired psychotherapist turned mystery writer. She is the author of the Kate Huntington mystery series, set in her native Maryland, and a new series, the Marcia Banks and Buddy mysteries, set in Central Florida.

We blog here at misterio press once (sometimes twice) a week, usually on Tuesdays. Sometimes we talk about serious topics, and sometimes we just have some fun.

Please follow us so you don’t miss out on any of the interesting stuff, or the fun! (We do not lend, sell nor otherwise bend, spindle or mutilate followers’ e-mail addresses. 🙂 )

Christmas in St. Augustine

St. Augustine is on the east coast of northern Florida. The climate is on the cusp between temperate and subtropical and December days are usually in the high 60’s to mid 70’s. But despite the balmy temperatures and palm trees, St. Augustine is really, really into Christmas.

It is billed as the oldest continuously occupied European city in the country. Admiral Menendez de Aviles of Spain spotted land–no doubt with much relief that he hadn’t fallen off the edge of the world–on the feast day of St. Augustine, August 28, 1565. He named the town he established after the saint.

The Spanish fort, Castillo de San Marcos, completed in 1695.

The historic district in full of beautiful Spanish architecture, some of it original, some built later in a style to blend in with the older buildings.

The Plaza de la Constitucion

The Cathedral

By the third week of November the historic district is festooned with millions of tiny white lights. On the weekend before Thanksgiving, the tree lighting ceremony occurs in the Plaza de la Constitucion, marking the official beginning of the Nights of Lights.

Nights of Lights in St. Augustine

 

Santa’s Christmas Train takes tourists through the city every evening through January. Or you can enjoy the lights from a horse-drawn carriage.

Five blocks of St. George Street are blocked off for pedestrians only and a variety of shops line the street, as well as a few tourist attractions such as the oldest wood schoolhouse in the country. The shops and restaurants are also decorated for Christmas, some of them so brightly it makes your eyes hurt.

St. George Street shopping district

The Casablanca Inn

On the first Saturday of December, there’s a Christmas parade. That evening a group of re-enactors celebrate a short period when La Florida was a British colony. It was traded to England in exchange for the port of Havana in 1763, and then reclaimed by Spain twenty years later, at the end of the American Revolution. Dressed in British uniforms, the fife and drum corps marches through the historic district, followed by the “loyal citizens of the colony,” in period attire and carrying candles. The crowd is invited to join the procession, which ends in the Plaza with Christmas caroling around the tree and gazebo.

The following weekend is the Regatta of Lights. Boat owners from local marinas decorate their boats and sail along the Matanzas River next to the historic district, and through the drawbridge of the Bridge of Lions.

 The holiday week culminates with a Beach Blast Off at St. Augustine Beach on New Year’s Eve. I’ve never been, but rumor has it that live music, chili and fireworks are involved.

photo by Schofield Barracks, from Wikimedia Commons

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

For more on the Nights of Lights in St. Augustine, click HERE.

What exotic places have you been to around Christmas time? Please share so we can continue our vicarious travels.

(Posted by Kassandra Lamb. Kassandra is a retired psychotherapist turned mystery writer. She writes the Kate Huntington mystery series.)

We usually blog here at misterio press once a week about more serious topics and then sometimes on Fridays or the weekend with something just for fun.Our blog is on semi-hiatus until mid January when we’ll get serious again. Please follow us by filling in your e-mail address where it says “subscribe to blog via email” in the column on the right, so you don’t miss out on any of the interesting stuff, or the fun!