Local Dog and Owners Participate in Program
The Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors (TAPS) held its Good Grief Camp in Arlington,Va., Memorial Day weekend.
Every year, family members of the military fallen are invited to attend a three-day grief seminar to learn how to cope with their loss and to just “be together.” Each survivor had a picture of their loved one around their neck.
Five dogs from HOPE Animal Assisted Crisis Response (AACR) were invited to attend, including Tess, along with owners Jerry and Kathy Constantino, of Seven Lakes West. The dogs were there to give comfort and support to participants and encourage sharing of stories if the camper felt the need. One thousand adults and 500 children attended the camp (free of charge if funds were unavailable) at the Marriott Hotel just blocks from the Pentagon.
Adult survivors spent their days attending grief seminars and listening to speakers, while their children were safely cared for by a military chaperone assigned to each child. Children attended age-appropriate classes, which attempted to provide support for their feelings. A number of field trips were planned to entertain the children and provide lots of fun.
Thousands of veteran motorcyclists arrived in Washington, D.C., for their annual Memorial Day ride in support of veterans. The Rolling Thunder event was shared with the TAPS children when several hundred cyclists arrived at the Marriott. Children could sit on the cycles, listen to the roar of the engines and with a parent’s permission, go for a short ride.
On the last day of the conference, each of the 500 children was given a red, white or blue balloon and a piece of paper on which they could write a note to a parent or sibling.
All 500 went to a park and released the helium-filled balloons at one time. As some of the balloons got stuck in the trees, the young military mentors (in blue T-shirts) monkeyed up the trees and released them.
HOPE AACR is made up of 140 canine teams nationwide and is available to assist in crisis situations after immediate physical needs have been met. Recently, the group traveled to several states and visited with people in shelters after their homes were ravaged by tornadoes. In the past, they have been invited to visit ground zero shortly after 9/11, the Virginia Tech shooting, hurricane Katrina, the Gabriel Giffords’ commemorative, Colorado fires, etc.
“The entire weekend was touching and inspiring, leaving us with a heightened appreciation of military families,” says Kathy Constantino.
All canine teams were invited back next year and are more than anxious to respond.
Tess has a special gift of kindness and compassion. She also volunteers for FirstHealth Moore Regional Hospital, FirstHealth Hospice and Palliative Care, Elmcroft memory care and the Pet Responsibility Committee. Always displaying gentleness, she loves her job and is anxious to put a smile on and go to work.
On her time off, Tess enjoys jumping off the dock to chase her “wubba” and letting a squirrel passing by know who’s really in charge of the street.
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