Therapy Dogs and the Making of a Legend

I realize that it is unlikely that any person who reads my blog might also read Men’s Health magazine, but there does happen to be a great article in the October 2011 issue.  They did a piece on the therapy dog program at my husband’s unit.  Because this program is new (my husband’s got the only one), it is controversial (bureaucracies do not like new things).  But these dogs really seem to make a difference to some soldier’s mental health and overall ability to cope with life.

Much of the controversies have come from potential violations of regulations: pets are not allowed in barracks, only service dogs are permitted in buildings, working dogs (K-9) must be kenneled in certain ways, etc.  Therapy dogs are not exactly service dogs (like seeing-eye dogs) and they’re definitely not K-9, trained to sniff out drugs or guns or attack fleeing bad guys.  There have been growing pains as the unit has had to help define what a therapy dog is and how the dogs may live and work on post.

The Men’s Health article doesn’t talk about any of these issues.  It talks about the soldiers and how the dogs make them feel, how the dogs have improved their lives, calmed their nerves, soothed their tempers, and given them something outside of themselves to think about.  It’s an interesting read, and I hope that subscribers will come away with a greater appreciation of what some people suffer in the name of Freedom.


On a completely personal note, the article is a great keepsake for our family.  First of all, there a chest-up photo of my husband that takes up almost the entire page.  It’s nicely photo-shopped to remove any blemishes and add in a vague stubble, I guess for artistic purposes.  Secondly, Bill is quoted several times, and his quotes are added in twice on the 8 page article as a highlighted blurb. 

And lastly, and best of all, my husband, my husband, is described as “a buff, hard-bitten combat veteran” which sounds so very cool.  I had no idea I was married to Rambo.  I am so thrilled to be wed to such a walking example of testosterone-laden heroism.  Ladies, feel free to drool over my husband’s picture, but remember, he’s all mine.

I plan to take this article to a frame shop and have it mounted in some way.  It will hang on the wall of our home, and our daughters’ boyfriends will read it and know they can never compare (and hopefully worry about what Daddy might do to them if they break his little girls’ hearts).  Eventually, our grandchildren will read it and say to each other, “Wow!  Grandpa served in Afghanistan.  He must have been a really tough guy.  See, it says so right here.” 

And the myth will grow.  And I’m ok with that. 

19 thoughts on “Therapy Dogs and the Making of a Legend

  1. This is really cool on so many levels, Michelle–though you must forgive my use of the very unimaginative “cool”. It's 5:30 a.m. and I've only had a sip or two of coffee.

    But you're one of my first reads today and that's pretty cool, right?


    I'm going to look for a copy of Men's Health today. My boys will be impressed, I'm sure, that I know the wife of that buff, hard-bitten veteran.

  2. Margaret (and everyone), I just have to warn you that Men's Health is like Cosmo for men and that along the top they advertise an article on The Better Sex Workout. Maybe buy the magazine and cut out the appropriate pages….

  3. Good for Bill! I'm glad he's getting the military some good PR — a rare thing these days.

  4. PS Hard-bitten?? Quite the journalism adjective!

  5. Yup, I agree: Pretty cool! (Except, well, no offense, but my husband is WAY more attractive than yours.) 🙂

  6. Would you believe that that Men's Health came in the mail yesterday? We usually just trash it–not sure how we got on their list–but it hadn't made it there yet so I left it for Bill to look at with his coffee. The kids all stopped and said, “Is that Mr. Reitemeyer?” But they didn't recognize him from his picture 😦 only from his name tape.

    We played a “what adjectives would we use” game and came up with lean, muscular, wirey. Hard-bitten was hard to buy into when one of my favorite memories is of Bill working on Halloween costumes.

  7. Does he usually wear a service cap?

  8. Rachel, the whole Army is back to service caps. You just live in a microcosm of the world known as the 82nd Airborne.

  9. Kerry gets Mens Health, so we will have to look that up! That is so cool! LOVE the description of Bill!!

  10. That is an awesome story! I'm sure you are so proud of your hubby.

  11. Oh my goodness!! That's awesome! I will have to put on some dark glasses and go incognito to the store and buy that magazine..!!

  12. It is good for the legend to grow. My husband just had his retirement ceremony after 30 years in the Air Force. My youngest son was born after John did the combat thing in Desert Storm and really only knew of his dad's career as a test pilot. As the earlier career exploits were recounted during the retirement ceremony, my son was amazed no one had ever told him about these things.It opened up a whole new venue of conversation for them. It was priceless.

  13. I ran right out & bought 4 copies (ok, 1 is for Matty, 1 is for Tommy, & 1 is for my office). I bragged to anyone who would listen in Barnes & Noble that that picture was my oldest son! Dad & I are very proud of him and his contributions. We are incredibly lucky that all of our kids have turned out so well.

  14. Excellent! Guess I'll have to go to the library to read it…but I will read it 🙂 Should be worth the weird looks I get from the senior citizens who frequent the library during school hours!

  15. Another 15 minutes of fame! Nice! Go Bill!!!

    About the dogs: they use dogs in some prison systems to rehabilitate certain inmates. I'm not completely sold on the whole rehabilitation idea, but they might be on to something with certain individuals. Dogs are brought to a separate area of the prison and prisoners groom the dogs. Even though there is no long term attachment, it seems that the prisoners develop compassion that translates to their human interactions and helps them build skills when they are released. Dogs are pretty cool – so many uses.

  16. Impressive! I will have to hunt down a copy when we cross over the pond again.

  17. Oh my, I am in a weird place, huh?

    I love that your Bill has a job that makes him a legend. My Bill enjoyed reading the article last night. When the kids all found out what Mr. R does, they were super impressed.

  18. I read a book a few weeks ago by a Iraq vet who suffered from PTSD. His story was all about this very thing- he was given a therapy dog to help him, it was lovely. I hope that more veterans are able to participate and get some emotional assistance from these dogs.

    It does rightly make you proud when your husband's good deeds and words are put in print.

    Way to go Bill!

  19. I have been showing the article to anyone at work who would listen. All are very impressed by the dogs & Bill. Everyone thinks he is very good-looking. I've even been asked for “pinup” copies of his picture!

    Many are going right out & buying a copy of the mag because of the story subject.

    Don't let this go to his head!

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