TAPS (Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors) MAGAZINE
Summer 2013 - Volume: 19 Issue: 2
Volunteer Voices: Belle
TAPS gives special thanks to Lisa Dolan for training and helping Belle attend all our national seminars.
Honor’s First for Freedom is my full name, but most everyone calls me Belle. I’m a Golden Retriever, born on January 27, 2005, in Charlotte, North Carolina. I left my furry family when I was only nine weeks old and flew to Virginia to start my new life with my new family. My new mom Lisa Dolan met me at the airport in Norfolk, Virginia. Yes, I was born to travel! Besides my mom, I have a sister Becca and a brother Beau. Their father, Navy Captain Bob Dolan, died in the terrorist attack on the Pentagon in 2001.After their Mr. Bob died, the Dolans attended Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors. Once a participant, my mom decided she wanted to give back to TAPS and honor her husband at the same time. That’s where I come into the story. Mom had encountered therapy dogs after September 11, 2001, and after some research, she contacted Honor Service Dogs Inc. in North Carolina. She wanted to raise a puppy in Mr. Bob’s memory to work with the families who have also experienced the loss of their armed services loved one. That is how I came to be part of the TAPS family.My first time at TAPS was May 2005. I was only four months old and was just a roly-poly ball of fuzzy fur when I first met the other TAPS families. Many of them were children and first timers like me, so they were scared and nervous, too. It didn’t take long for the hugs and kisses to calm my nerves and theirs. Mom said I was making them feel safe and helping to heal their broken hearts. She said the hugs and kisses are comforting and healing, and it’s the job of a therapy dog to comfort and heal.>I was officially in training back in 2005. It was Memorial Day weekend; a weekend set aside every year to honor and remember the military fallen. Each year TAPS gathers in Washington, DC, to remember the love, celebrate the life, and share the journey. That weekend, I loved, celebrated, and shared with many families. As a young one myself, I naturally gravitated to the youngest: the TAPS children. I became a mascot for the Good Grief Camp and cuddled and licked away many tears. This was my calling; I am a heart healer.I love being a heart healer. Over the years, I’ve comforted families up and down the East Coast, the Southwest, and the Midwest. I’ve worked with veterans and nursing homes. I’ve rocked with Rolling Thunder and cheered on runners at the Marine Corps Marathon. I love that I have touched so many lives.While every life I touch is important, no one I meet will ever be as special to me as my TAPS families. Each year Mom and I return to TAPS for the National Military Survivor Seminar in May. We see old faces and new ones, too. It makes me sad that new families are grieving, but I am happy to be there to help heal and comfort them.This year was my 9th TAPS weekend. I am eight years old now and an honorary mentor at the Good Grief Camp for the kids. Every year I look forward to seeing my TAPS families, especially the children I call my “babies.” Some of my “babies” are beyond their teens now and are mentors themselves. They, too, are heart healers. I’m so proud!
Thanks to Lisa for sharing this about her "Belle" (pictured left)
First for Freedom,
In Loving Memory Of
Captain Robert E Dolan Jr
(September 11, 2001)
“You can't imagine the Joy we saw on the faces of our precious Veterans as a wagon filled with 9 fluffy Golden fur balls with wagging little tails rolled through the halls of the Veterans home. It was a joyous sight as we watched the Veterans hold those precious pups. It was a wonderful day full of wiggly puppies and lots of fun. We made our rounds over the two days covering each floor and spending time with our Veterans. The puppies stirred a lot of interest of Local Volunteers as well and we had a wonderful turn out to help us with the Puppies. There were volunteers carrying puppies all over and placing them in laps. WAS A BEAUTIFUL sight! I am still in the clouds.”
Tish McKenzie, RN and director of Veterans Hospitals ministry
“I am a 59 year old man that had a work accident back in 1980. My spinal column was pushed into the base of my brain. I was in a coma for 28 days where the doctors worked very hard to save my life more than once. For the most part I am in a wheelchair 90-95% of the time. For many years I battled depression and mood swings, feelings of worthlessness, as I lost the two jobs I had for over eighteen years. About three years ago, I applied for a trained therapy dog from Honor. “Jordan” and I now serve at Camp Courage where 1200 campers from the ages of seven to seventy, with all types of disabilities, come each summer. Most of the children that attend our oncology camp are terminal. It has brought incredible joy and strength to all of us to have “Jordan” as my service dog at the camp. “Jordan” has changed the lives of many children with cancer. We visit the local Veterans Hospital as well as numerous rest homes. “Jordan” has changed my life from one of deep depression to a life of joy and expectancy, knowing that the two of us have a mission.”
Jeffrey K., MN
LOADING MORE SERVICE DOG STORIES - REVISIT SOON!
I wanted to give you an update on Grizz. He is now about 3 1/2 months old. I've been working with a trainer who, having watched him while we were on vacation, declared him the best Golden she's seen in 6 years! I can't even tell you what a neat puppy he is and how quickly he is learning. He sits quietly while people pet him. References us all the time and is just a mellow sweetheart. I've taken to referring to him as Brad Pitt because he's so cute that anytime I go out with him I'm surrounded by people oohing and ahhing him and I feel like I'm walking around with a celebrity! He is getting huge! All in all, he's just remarkable and we are all NUTS over him. Just thought you'd want to know. I've had hundreds of people ask me where I got him from so I wouldn't be surprised if you got some calls from Colorado.
Thanks again for this sweet, gentle soul who makes us laugh and smile every day.
Eleanor H., CO
(both pictured left)
ZIVA is lucky! But WE are luckier! She is a north country girl with a city girl flair. And acclimates well to both but I think the lake and woods are her passions! We have raised 7 Goldens over 25 years as family members. All our dogs have been well bred and they all have had his and her own unique personalities. But some how ZIVA is different. An intelligence unlike any other. She is bold yet cautious; stout-hearted and gentle; loving yet independent; clownish and elegant. We hope to have another Honor pup in our lives some day, God willing. Thank you for this very special girl. And ZIVA says "thanks, for hooking me up with such cool parents".
With our warmest regards, Dea and Jim J.
LOADING MORE FAMILY PET STORIES - REVISIT SOON!
Honor Service Dogs Inc.
is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization
that provides extraordinary golden retrievers to veterans, special needs individuals and service organizations as well as wonderful family pets.
Established in 1960.
P.O. Box 77108, Charlotte, NC, 28271, USA