Valdosta Daily Times

Features

February 3, 2013

Couple trains service dogs to aid, comfort service men and women

VALDOSTA — As a child, Tim Glenn suffered trauma. As an adult, he was assaulted and injured. These incidents resulted with his being diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder.

With the assault leaving him unable to work, Glenn reached back to a positive part of his childhood to soothe his soul and fill his hours.

As a young teenager, Glenn trained dogs. In the past several months, he began training dogs again but with a renewed purpose. He began training service dogs to first help himself then to help others cope with PTSD.

Now with wife Melanie Duplantis, Glenn has formed PUPS, which stands for People Using Pups for Service. They have teamed with Hopes and Dreams Riding Facility, a Brooks County-based program that uses horses to help active-duty military personnel and veterans suffering from PTSD and physical injuries.

Hopes and Dreams serves as PUPS’ umbrella organization. Mike Randall, the Vietnam veteran who founded Hopes and Dreams, says PUPS is a perfect fit for his organization’s mission of helping military personnel and their families. Like Glenn, Randall initially developed what would become his program for personal reasons. Randall’s sons were Iraq and Afghanistan combat veterans. He reached back to their shared past of working with horses to help his sons readjust to civilian life. Seeing the success with his sons, Randall felt a horse-therapy program could help other Wounded Warriors.

Duplantis has been with the Air Force for the past 17 1/2 years. She was aware and involved with the Hopes and Dreams mission. Given her husband’s success with training a service dog to help him live with PTSD, the idea of a partnership coalesced.

Glenn has already provided Smoky, a therapy dog, for the Hopes and Dreams lodge, but he and Duplantis plan on building five kennels on the Hopes and Dreams property as well as three kennels on their Lowndes County property. They are in the fundraising stages for their PUPS project. All donations for the service dog program should be made to Hopes and Dreams with PUPS written on the memo line.

They are training service dogs for individuals as well as therapy dogs which will be there to comfort the military groups that visit Hopes and Dreams.

They hope to see PTSD veterans benefit in the ways that Glenn has experienced as a civilian suffering PTSD.

Glenn’s combined traumas from childhood and as an adult cause him to suffer from nightmares, anxiety, mood swings and other post-traumatic stress disorder symptoms. As he dealt with these symptoms, he met and married Duplantis. Glenn has a daughter from a previous marriage, and Duplantis has a daughter from a previous marriage.

They began a new life as a blended family, but Glenn’s unresolved PTSD threatened to destroy the marriage in the first few months.

“Tim has PTSD,” Duplantis says, “but when he was around dogs, he became a different person.”

They built on his past experience as a 13-year-old training an Alaskan husky named Princess Tiga. They did the research for how to train service dogs. Service dogs “are animals that are individually trained to perform tasks for people with disabilities — such as guiding people who are blind, alerting people who are deaf, pulling wheelchairs, alerting and protecting a person who is having a seizure, or performing other special tasks. Service animals are working animals, not pets,” according to the Americans with Disabilities Act.

They also cover people suffering from PTSD.

A service dog can be trained to be alert of a PTSD person as they are having a traumatic nightmare; the dog will climb onto the sleeping person to calm them with deep-pressure therapy. A PTSD service dog can be trained to flip on a light switch to allow the waking person to see they are in a safe environment. They can be trained to sense anxiety in a person.

As with all service animals, the dog can accompany the PTSD sufferer to all public places by law. With only one exception, Glenn and Duplantis say area restaurants and businesses have welcomed the PTSD service dogs; one Valdosta buffet asked them to leave after they had been seated. They have also faced comments from some customers who don’t understand that PTSD is a legitimate diagnosis, but for the most part, South Georgia has embraced the service dogs.

Glenn’s first success came with J.D., a German shepherd and lab mix. Glenn trained J.D. to sense and respond when he suffered a nightmare. When Glenn suffers a nightmare, he fights in his sleep. The dog’s weight, the deep-pressure therapy, helps Glen awake from the nightmares.

A few weeks ago, Glenn gave J.D. to his step-father, Carol Dean, who shares the same name as Glenn’s mother, who is also Carol Dean. The step-father had lost a family member and J.D. has served as a balm to his grief. Glenn’s mother, however, wondered why she kept awaking to find the dog atop of her. She learned she was having breathing difficulties while sleeping. J.D. read those difficulties in the same way he would have responded to a nightmare.

In addition, to J.D. and Smoky, Glenn and Duplantis have donated a service dog to a young boy suffering from Asperger’s Syndrome.

“To see the look on that child’s face when he received the dog made it all worth it,” says Glenn, who does not accept pay for training the dogs.

With a few dogs in varying stages of training, Tim Glenn and Melanie Duplantis hope to see similar looks on the faces of military personnel in the months to come.

Donations can be made to Hopes and Dreams Riding Facility, 4600 Knights Ferry Road, Quitman, Ga. 31643. Checks should be made payable to Hopes and Dreams Riding Facility Inc. with PUPS on the memo line. Donations of gift cards to PetSmart, grocery stores, or other places selling pet supplies are also welcome.

   



 

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