Stiggy’s Dogs

It isn’t always about yoga here at War Retreat. Sometimes we like to talk about other groups that support the military or PTSD in other ways. Today I would like to introduce you all to Stiggy’s Dogs.

Stiggy’s Dogs is a non-profit, which offers Psychiatric Service Dogs (which are former shelter dogs that they train specifically for each Veteran…how cool, right!) to Veterans dealing with PTSD and TBI.

Jennifer Petre is the founder of Stiggy’s Dogs, which she began in memory of her nephew HM3 Ben Castiglione, who gave his life while taking care of “his Marine” as a Corpsman in Southern Afghanistan in September 2009.  I became aware of Stiggy’s Dogs because I went to high school with Ben back in Michigan.

This program not only helps Veterans but it also helps shelter dogs at the same time. The dogs are taught tasks such as reminding the Veteran to take their medicine, waking them up from a nightmare or when an alarm clock is ringing, to directing them through a crowd. The best part is the dogs are free to the Veterans. Stiggy’s Dogs supplies all of the training as well as the supplies for the dogs (crates, bedding, toys, leashes, and they are all up to date on immunizations).

So please, check out Stiggy’s Dogs on their website, on Facebook or Twitter and make sure to pass them on to anyone you think might be interested.


In Muir Beach CA: 31 March, Hike and Meditate (no cost event)

Dyan Ferguson of Honoring The Path of The Warrior has an event coming up. You can read all about it here on this link. WarRereat has made the notations in parenthesis to show how it fits with our mission of movement and breath.

From their flyer: 

  • Come relax and have fun!  (Breathe)
  • Hike through the Golden Gate National Recreation Area (Move)
  • Visit the Green Gulch Farm Zen Center (Share)
  • Learn meditation and mindfulness tools you can use in your daily life (Experience)
Click on the photo below to be take to the registration info.

Sunday Life Advice: “Everything’s Changed, Including Me”

There comes a point in your life, where you realize nothing has ever gone to plan. Or in my case, any plan I might have had, was always pulled back into line by the hand of God. Once you take the ego out of it, things become so much easier. Sometimes I think stubborness is the work of the devil (though not all resistance is bad).  But that’s a philosophical conversation that ought to be had in a pub, with a drink, and maybe a book of Yeats nearby.

What's on my desk right now.

Some people talk about “keeping their sanity” or staying on “this side of normal.” But what’s normal now, certainly wasn’t even on the horizon of where I thought I would be say –20 years ago. Or how about 30?  40?  50?  Well, yes, I am old enough to have a 50 years ago.  Normal changes.

I’m bringing this up because many are coming home from war. Who they are now, may not have been on the horizon of their consciousness even 2 years ago. And yet they are changed. The challenge set forth is a false one: that they must get back to who they were before war. But in reality, no one really ever gets back to who they were even 2 years ago. Everything changes, and most of all, your experiences have shaped your perspective in ways you will still be discovering 20 years from now.

Families change too. Spouses, children, parents and friends. You’re not alone in feeling the drift, the growth, regret, hope, nostalgia, and even wistfulness. They’re in as much need of counseling and letting go of the myth everything (meaning you, them, or you and them) will revert back to the way things were. Because they know they won’t, and while they accept and soldier on, it doesn’t make it any less painful. One thing for sure: we can never go back in time. (Sorry, but the VA has yet to develop a Tardis). So never think you’re alone, because change is never easy for everyone. But one thing can make it easier: people you meet who will act as guides.

Just let those guides through an open door once in awhile. Who knows –it could be a person, a book, a poem, a song, a movie, an animal, or it could just be a day when you go outside and take in the open sky, noticing the shades of a sunrise. Some will be long term influences, others will just happen in passing. Look for those that have set off a spark within that compels you to take some positive steps to grow.  Growth is change, it happens slowly. And while the mental or physical changes in you might have happened quickly, progress comes one step at a time. It’s not always easy. But just keep going toward the light, and when an open hand comes your way: grasp it.

Side note: Big nod of gratitude to the Nick Vogt Family, whose daily postings about their son’s progress on Facebook have been a window into a family built on unconditional love. We are thankful they share their journey with the public.

Connected Warriors works to help veterans after war

One of the complaints we’ve heard is lack of sleep, and finding they were always hypervigilant and they were not able to let go being in that stress state all of the time. So with the breathing practice, and this meditation and the easy asana (pose) postures, they are able to find the calmness and sleep, and other changes in their life so they can re-integrate back into society easier.  -Judy Weaver, Vice President, Co-Founder and teacher at Connected Warriors 
Connected Warriors is a program that helps veterans through yoga with the aftermath of war. Started in southern Florida, the organization also has programs in Kentucky, Tennessee and is working to grow their program. A fundraiser is set for 8 March. Please see their website for a press release, and consider contributing or attending.

In Saratoga Springs NY: National Guard Vets Tell Their Stories

Our friend LtCol (Ret) Paul Fanning of the New York Army National Guard has sent in this wonderful event he is coordinating. As you know, there are lots of ways to work things out emotionally. One of them is through movement and breathe work, and being conscious of tension held in the muscles and mind. The other is by telling stories.  I’ve always held that writing allows us to put things down concretely in paper. The therapeutic part comes later, when we go through our work and re-organize it. Through editing, we highlight the most important parts of the story, and let the other parts go. What we have at the end (and it can take a lot of passes before you think you’ve got it right), is an organized perspective of what happened and why it mattered.

On 24 March, in Saratoga Springs NY. Stories from the Sandbox by the men and women who served in Iraq.